Politics & Government

Chamber mounts ‘educational’ effort against 15 Now Tacoma minimum wage proposal

The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has launched what it calls an “educational” effort about the citizen initiative that would raise Tacoma’s hourly minimum wage to $15 almost immediately.

A four-page mailer that folds out into a poster declaring “direct to $15 is too extreme” started arriving in mailboxes last week. It’s unclear how widely it was distributed, but Chamber CEO Tom Pierson acknowledged it went to both homes and businesses.

The mailer is a direct response to the details of the citizen initiative written by 15 Now Tacoma. The Pierce County auditor confirmed this month that the pro-$15 advocacy group had gathered enough signatures to have the initiative placed on the ballot.

“We are trying to educate people about what is happening,” Pierson said in an interview last week. “I hear all the time when I go talk to businesses — they talk about Seattle, but there’s not a lot of clarity” about what the Tacoma initiative entails.

The Tacoma City Council has until 4:30 p.m. Aug. 4 to send the 15 Now measure to the county auditor for the November election, city attorneys now say. They previously reported that the city had to act by next Monday (July 6).

Until the City Council takes formal action to send the initiative to the ballot, the chamber can spend unlimited amounts without having to report it, according to the state agency that monitors campaign finance spending.

On Monday, Pierson said the Chamber has spent about $16,750 so far on its “Know 15” effort, which beyond the mailer includes a website full of download-able fliers, a social media presence and posters produced by local advertising agency JayRay.

“It’s not a campaign,” he said. “It’s educational and informational and funded straight through the chamber.”

Until the 15 Now measure is in the hands of the county auditor, the chamber’s effort is considered local lobbying on a general issue, according to officials from the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

“Expenditures for local lobbying are not disclosed to the Public Disclosure Commission,” said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson in an email.

Meanwhile, the Tacoma City Council is scheduled Tuesday (June 30) to hear two alternatives to 15 Now Tacoma’s measure from a task force convened by the City Council at the request of the chamber. The panel’s majority report is expected to recommend the city raise the minimum wage to $15 a hour for all workers by 2024.

15 Now Tacoma could decide to withdraw its proposal if it is satisfied with the city task force’s proposal. Group members plan to attend a labor rally, also Tuesday, to announce their position.