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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 12, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 33
City Council on a roll:

Bans housing discrimination, takes up secure scheduling
Section One
ALL STORIES
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City Council on a roll:

Bans housing discrimination, takes up secure scheduling

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Only a week after banning anti-LGBT conversion therapy, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted on August 8 to ban housing discrimination based on source of income. The next day, a City Council committee held its first hearing on a proposal to make employers give their workers fair notice of their scheduled shifts.

The renters' rights measure, sponsored by City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, requires landlords to rent to the first qualified applicant, regardless of whether the applicant lists government vouchers or subsidies as part of their income.

The City already prohibits discrimination against people using Section 8 vouchers, but the new law will extend the protection to people with any kind of income or housing subsidies.

A survey conducted by the City of Seattle last year found discrimination against Section 8 applicants in 63% of cases, in spite of the City's ban on such discrimination, and also found discrimination against disabled prospective tenants in 64% of cases.

Many studies have also documented implicit bias based on race, sexual orientation, family status, and other factors.

'If we want to ensure people aren't discriminating, especially against people of color...we really need to pass the first-in-time amendment,' said Xochitl Maykovich, an organizer with the Washington Community Action Network, which worked to pass the legislation.

The new ordinance also bars landlords from affording some renters a positive bias, by forbidding so-called 'move-in specials' designed to favor Microsoft or Amazon employees.

One exception to the new law would be for landlords who want to rent to people from historically marginalized communities - the landlord who prefers to rent to people of color, for example, or LGBT people - because that would 'affirmatively further fair housing.'

The other exemption would be for landlords who rent out portions of a single-family home that they themselves also occupy.

In a statement, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray noted that his Housing Affordability Living Agenda (HALA) task force had recommended similar measures.

'One of the key recommendations of the HALA committee was for the City to address barriers that our most vulnerable residents face when finding a home to rent,' said Mayor Murray.

'The legislation we introduced this spring expanded fair housing protections for renters using subsidies or other sources of income. Thank you to the City Council for approving this proposal - our seniors, veterans, and working parents will now be able to use their protected benefits towards renting a home.'

Secure scheduling
The day after the August 8 renters' rights vote, Lisa Herbold's Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee - the same committee that passed the conversion therapy ban and sent it to the full Council - held a hearing on a proposed ordinance to give the city's workers secure work schedules.

The measure would require employers to give their employees at least 14 days' notice of their work schedules, and to pay employees for at least half of scheduled shifts that are canceled or cut at the last minute.

It would also require employers to afford full-time work to employees that want it, rather than adding additional, new part-time employees.

According to Kamaria Hightower, communications director for the Martin Luther King County Labor Council (MLKCLC), Mayor Murray and City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold crafted the legislation after consultations with 'all the stakeholders,' including business groups.

'Without secure scheduling, it's impossible for workers to balance their budgets, their second jobs, and their families, and to be out in the community,' she said.

Domino's employee Crystal Kaufman, holding the younger of her two children in her arms as she spoke, noted that even after seven years at the same job, she gets her weekly work schedule less than 24 hours before her first shift.

A representative of Allied Employers, a group of major unionized supermarket chains, spoke in favor of the measure, noting that 'our businesses are unionized, and employees have a wide range of protections in their contracts, but nonunion employees need similar protections.'

According to organizers from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21 and Working Washington, two groups backing the proposed ordinance, the legislation will go to the full City Council for a vote in early September.

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