Deposit Reform Takes Effect

What you need to know:

  • Landlords will have to accept payment plans for the upfront costs to moving into a rental (security deposit, last month’s rent and non-refundable fees)
  • Payment plans are based off the length of the lease, and for leases six months or longer, the tenant payment plan can pay these fees and last month’s rent in installments in as many as six equal monthly installments. Renters can request a longer repayment plan with a landlord’s agreement.
  • The total cost of the security deposit and nonrefundable fees must not exceed one month’s rent, with the exception of a pet deposit
  • Pet deposits may not be more than 25% of your rent for one month and no other pet fees can be charged

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will enforce this legislation and landlords who repeatedly violate it will face civil penalties. Call their help line to report violations (206) 615-0808.

We want to hear from you! Will you benefit from this legislation? Have you had trouble finding affordable housing in Seattle in the past? Click this link to tell us more.

Wage bump will help service workers, people of color

kenya-mapIn the refugee camp in Kenya, preparing to come to the United States, Ayan Barre believed all the tall tales she heard about the land where money grows on trees.

And after eight years in Seattle, the Somali mother of four jokes that by now she should be living in a nice big house and driving a fancy car.

But Barre, who lives in low-income housing in Kent, depends on income from her part-time job at an Amazon warehouse, supplemented by the assistance she gets for her elderly mother.

Until October, the warehouse job paid $13 an hour, almost on par with the top tier of the graduated minimum-wage proposal appearing on the November ballot.

While critics of Initiative 1433 have argued that $13.50 an hour, where the minimum wage rate would settle by 2020, is too much and goes too far, Barre’s struggle to support four kids and other family members on her meager earnings, illustrates the challenges low-income earners face.

In addition to requiring employers to provide up to seven paid sick and safe days a year, Initiative 1433 would hike the state’s minimum wage each year, over the next four years, from the current $9.47.

Full-time workers, at that rate, take home less than $20,000 a year, well below the poverty line for a family of four and insufficient, on its own, to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the state.

More than 730,000 minimum-wage earners would get a $600-a-month raise if 1433 is approved, according to Raise Up Washington, the initiative sponsor.

These workers come from all backgrounds and are employed in all sectors, from service to retail. They are child-care workers and home-health care providers.

One in six are women and women earning the minimum wage, according to Raise Up Washington, are the primary bread-winners in 40 percent of households with children.

“For many, this will mean no longer choosing between rent and child care, between food and transportation,” said Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, a campaign partner.

“When we raise the minimum wage, we lift people out of poverty and reduce dependence on social services and government programs.” RAMOS

The increase would be particularly meaningful in communities across South King County, where people of color represent a majority of the population. According to the campaign, more than 40 percent of African Americans and Latino workers earn less than $13.50 an hour.

Additionally, said Jack Sorenson, spokesman for Raise Up Washington, 88 percent of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20, “not the Leave it to Beaver teenager saving to buy their first set of wheels. That’s not true in this modern economy,” he said.

The average age: 35.

Last year, Washington Community Action Network launched a special voting project, Operation Spectra, in parts of South King County and surveyed voters on a series of economic issues, including the minimum wage.

More than 70 percent told canvassers they support raising the minimum wage.

I-1433 which would raise the rate to $11 an hour next year, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 by 2020.

Whether and where to establish a wage floor has been a source of controversy since it was first established on the federal level in the 1930s.

In making the case for a 25 cents-an-hour, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”

Today’s federal rate of $7.25, is lower than the rates in 29 states.

The common refrain that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been repeatedly debunked; rather the opposite has proven to be true, Sorenson said.

“When people are taking home $600 more a month in pay, they are going out and buying clothes for their kids, buying groceries,” he said. “They look forward to going to a restaurant. That’s business that wasn’t there before.”

Two years ago, protests and walkouts by workers at McDonald became the spark for a movement that led to the passage of $15 minimums in several cities across the country, including Seattle. Seattle’s minimum wage will reach $15 by 2021.

Sorenson said, “$13.50 makes sense for the Washington economy outside of Seattle.”

And Barre, the Kent mother said recently Amazon agreed to increase hourly wages for her and her co-workers to $15 beginning in October, an increase, she said, that will go a long way to helping her family make ends meet.

Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline

Click this link to support the THUNDERCLAP!

Jobs After Jail_Meme 1

SEATTLE – Each year an average of 630,000 people are released from state and federal prisons – for many, their prison record will be a life sentence of poverty and low wages.

In addition to facing “the box” on job applications that asks about being convicted of a crime, they also face a raft of state restrictions banning them from certain occupations. Every state in the country bans formerly incarcerated people from specific jobs. Washington bars them from 96 jobs, often good-paying jobs. In Seattle, by a law passed last year, an employer cannot inquire about an applicant’s criminal history, until the employer has screen applicants based on qualifications..

Today, Washington Community Action Network and OneAmerica are releasing Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline. The report by the Alliance for a Just Society, analyzes the impact of policies that limit employment opportunities for people who have served jail or prison sentences.

“It’s been an uphill battle to find a job after being released from jail last year,” said Gregory Boris who is featured in the report. “I knew it would be hard, especially for me because I have gang tattoos but I have been upfront about my past with potential employers.”

In the report, Boris tells of his struggle to find work even though he was candid in interviews. He applied to dozens of jobs for weeks without anything to show for it.

“Most people would have given up by this time and gone back to their old ways,” said Boris. “I was determined to turn my life around.” Boris has now returned to school full time.

“A sense of urgency is growing across the nation to support ban the box laws that close the doors for opportunity to many formerly incarcerated members of our communities,” said OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz, “Combined with the racially disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, ending this form of discrimination is central to addressing racial and income inequality in America. Too many of our community members are unable to realize their potential or support their families, and that’s a loss we all bear.”

About 70 million people in the U.S have a felony or serious misdemeanor arrest or conviction that could impact their ability to find a job, locking a big part of our country out of stable, good-paying employment.

“People leave jail or prison with debt from their incarceration, then face dramatic hurdles finding work that pays,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “A history of racism in the United States means that people of color are more likely to be poorer and face harsher sentences than their white counterparts. They are also more likely to be incarcerated, face harsher sentences and be cut off from good jobs after their release.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Eliminate lifetime legislative bans to employment
  • Ban the box – the question about convictions on job applications.
  • Reform policies on court fines and fees and incarceration fees that leave people deep in debt after they are released.
  • Invest in businesses that pay high wages and employ formerly incarcerated people.

Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline is part of the Job Gap Economic Prosperity series on jobs and wages produced by the Alliance since 1999.

With over 44,000 members, Washington Community Action Network is the state’s largest grassroots community organization. Together we work to achieve racial, social, and economic justice in our state and nation. Our strength as an organization depends on our members’ involvement. We believe that we can only achieve our goals when people take action for justice.

OneAmerica is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice by building power within immigrant communities.

Alliance for a Just Society is a national organization that focuses on social, economic and racial justice issues.


Raise Up Washington Launch

This Saturday, we were on hand for the launch of the Raise Up Washington campaign that will work to raise the minimum wage and ensure every Washington resident has sick and safe leave. In a time when many are struggling to make ends meet, this movement is vital for families to raise up out of poverty and help achieve economic justice. Now, envoys are on the street collecting signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. 300,000 signatures are needed by July. If the measure passes, the minimum wage would climb to $13.50 over the course of four years.

Main Street Alliance of Washington leader and owner of Plum Restaurants, Makini Howell, has been a champion of the minimum wage movement. Her workers at Plum Restaurants are already making the $15 per hour minimum ahead of the city of Seattle mandate. She was interviewed on KIRO TV following the launch. Click the photo below to watch the story.

Makini on KIRO

To read more about Raise Up Washington, including information on volunteering click here.

Legal Financial Obligations

LFOLegal Financial Obligations are the costs incurred by individuals convicted of crimes during the time they are incarcerated. Fees include court costs, fines and other legal assessments. They accrue at a rate of 12 percent and are issued at a critical time when individuals have served their time and are reentering society. LFOs trap families into cycles of poverty and debt, increase the risk of homelessness through ruined credit, and shift the costs of mass incarceration onto communities of color.

Some statistics about LFOs:

  • The average LFO debt in Washington is $2,500. With a 12% interest rate, consistent payments of $20 per month will NEVER pay off the debt.
  • Even when you compare people convicted of the same crime, which have the same criminal history, Latino defendants are sentenced to higher LFOs than anyone else.
  • Incarceration targets poor people. 80-90% of people charged with felonies in Washington are declared indigent by courts at the time of sentencing.
  • More than 114,000 people owe Legal Financial Obligations in the state of Washington.

Are you affected by Legal Financial Obligations or know someone who is? We want to hear from you.