Initiatives could bring mandatory sick leave to construction


There may be two initiatives on the November ballot to raise the minimum wage. Both of them go beyond the minimum wage and require paid sick leave.

AGC is concerned about the sick-leave provisions because the construction industry is perhaps unique in that paid time off for sick days has never been part of the compensation package for hourly workers. Because construction work is naturally intermittent, pay has always been for time worked. For this reason, compensation packages have focused on the hourly rate, health and retirement benefits. These initiatives turn upside down long-established practices of the industry regarding worker compensation and are an unwelcomed government intrusion into an area that has been successfully negotiated by management and labor for years.

Initiative 1433, sponsored by State Labor Council, would increase the state hourly minimum wage for employees who are at least 18 to $13.50 by 2020. The measure would also require employers to provide paid sick leave starting in 2018: One hour per 40 hours worked; 40 hours can be carried over, meaning about 13 days of possible use by second year. No exemption is provided for the construction industry, and no option to waive it via collective-bargaining agreements.

Initiative 1518 is sponsored by the Washington Restaurant Association as the $12 alternative to I-1433, raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 while allowing temporary training wages starting at $9.50 per hour. It would require employers to provide paid sick leave starting in 2018: one hour per 40 hours worked with 24 hours allowed to be carried over to next year, but usage capped at five days per year. Like I-1433, it has no sick-leave exemption for the construction industry, and no option to waive it via collective-bargaining agreements.

It appears that I-1433 has the money and backing to collect the signatures needed to get on the ballot, as the Raise Up Washington campaign has raised more than $700,000 so far. I-1518, only recently filed, will probably have a harder time getting on the ballot, but it is possible.

In 2012, AGC negotiated labor agreements with the Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Carpenters, Cement Masons and Laborers. All included waivers of the Seattle sick leave ordinance, which passed the previous year, in recognition that the ordinance doesn't work for the construction industry. After the City of Tacoma passed its own sick-leave ordinances, a waiver of that ordinance was also negotiated into the MLAs.

The City of Spokane, in its ordinance, exempted the construction industry as a whole from sick-leave provisions. This is the AGC’s preferred approach. The two ballot initiatives, however, neither exempt construction nor allow for waivers through master labor agreements.

For more information, contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.