Work the vote — Seattle District 4

Work the Vote is Working Washington's Voters Guide for the 2015 Elections. Follow along here and find out how the candidates for Seattle Council District 4 (Wallingford, U District, Eastlake) make their case for workers' votes. 


We asked all 18 candidates for Seattle City Council to make a brief, simple video — using just their voice, their cell phone, and maybe a selfie stick — that answers the question:


Here's what the candidates sent in:


Rob on how workers will be better off if he's elected

Our response to Working Washington / Working Washington - Seattle's first "Work the Vote" Voters Guide Question: How will workers be better off if you’re elected?

Posted by Rob for Seattle on Friday, September 25, 2015

Michael Maddux


Big business lobby groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Restaurant Association are typically the most prominent opponents of higher wages, paid sick days, and other workers rights issues. They also endorse candidates, but their process and agenda are bit of a mystery. We know they have questionnaires and even interviews, but what happens there is rarely made public, and it's not always clear why they end up backing the candidates they do.


We also asked for them to answer two additional questions: 

Here's what the candidates sent in:

Rob Johnson

Click image for full CASE questionnaire

Click image for full CASE questionnaire

Click image for full Hospitality PAC questionnaire

Click image for full Hospitality PAC questionnaire

1) If you or your opponent has received an endorsement, direct contributions, or an independent expenditure on your behalf from either of these groups.

The Rob for Seattle campaign has been endorsed by, and has received both a direct contribution of $700 (the maximum donation), and an independent expenditure from CASE and the WA Restaurant Association. The independent expenditure received contributions of $46,500 and $25,000 from CASE and the WA Restaurant Assc. Hospitality PAC, respectively.

2) Why you think these business lobby groups made the endorsements and spent their resources as they did.

I dislike the way some people have portrayed the “People for Rob” independent expenditure. It’s odd to see yourself in the news and be branded as in the pockets of corporate interests. I’ve always disliked the influence of outside money in politics; this is, unfortunately, the reality of our post-Citizens’ United American electoral landscape.

As a progressive non-profit executive director proudly endorsed by UFCW 21, SEIU 925 and Local 6, Sierra Club, Cascade Bicycle Club and other strong advocates for working families and diverse, vibrant communities, I am learning in this campaign that you can remain true to your values and still earn the backing of certain groups that some don’t see as the most progressive organizations in Seattle. I’d like to think the support of labor, environmental, and business groups speaks more to my hard work, coalition building skills, and straight-forward approach as much as anything.  Our campaign has picked up votes and supporters by knocking on over 25,000 doors, making thousands of phone calls, and recruiting almost two hundred volunteers.

I've been nothing but up front with the people I work with, whether you're on the left or the right. I don't always agree with the Chamber or the Restaurant Association's politics all the time, but they still endorse me as a candidate despite. While I welcome the support of a diverse set of organizations, I also want to be clear that my positions— rooted in my proven track record of progressive issue advocacy— remain rock solid and focused on how we can work together, business and labor, builders and environmentalists, renters and home owners, for a Seattle that is more affordable, fair, and responsive to the needs of all.

Michael Maddux

Click image for full CASE questionnaire

Click image for full CASE questionnaire

First, here is my questionnaire from the Chamber. I never received a questionnaire from the WRA, just did an interview. 

On to the questions,

1) If you or your opponent has received an endorsement, direct contributions, or an independent expenditure on your behalf from either of these groups.

I have not. My opponent was the beneficiary of a significant independent expenditure campaign funded by the Chamber, the Rental Housing Association, and the Washington Restaurant Association in the primary.

2) Why you think these business lobby groups made the endorsements and spent their resources as they did.

Putting my political hat on, I believe the Chamber of Commerce and Washington Restaurant Association want a Council Member who they believe will work "better" with them and will be more inclined to support their agendas. My campaign has been focused on, among other things, supporting small businesses, and working with them on implementation strategies with regard to local labor laws designed to protect workers. I have made clear to all groups I speak with - and I speak with anyone that asks - that my door remains open, but working families and small businesses will be permanent fixtures in my office. I'm not running to be a mediator; I'm running to represent the families of District 4. I run with a long history of effective advocacy behind me - whether it be connecting homeless youth with housing while working for Planned Parenthood; representing workers at the bargaining table (after preventing a decertification drive) while with UFCW 1001; ten years working as a litigation paralegal, primarily representing people in civil litigation matters against insurers, as well as victims of excessive force and child abuse; various leadership positions in the Democratic Party; and notably, work with our parks. This broad experience, with numerous progressive successes, has prepared me to be an effective advocate for the people and small businesses of our city. Frankly, if I were an economically conservative group, I wouldn't want me on council, either. I’m all about collaboration, but collaboration from the perspective of benefiting working families first

3) No place like home

Affordable housing is a growing crisis in Seattle, so we asked the candidates to find housing on Craigslist or some other source that they could afford as a full-time minimum wage worker,then plan out their commute — by public transit — to the Ballard Taco Bell (the site of Seattle’s first fast food strike line). We asked them to include a link to the listing they picked, how they’d be able to afford it, how much time their commute would take, and anything else they noticed along the the way.

Here's what the candidates sent in:

Rob Johnson


How to afford: 

With rent being $515, that is 34.3% of $1500, which is right around the affordability metric of housing costs being 1/3rd of pay. There's also the unlisted cost of internet and electricity, which is split down the middle with the person listing the address.

Commute time via transit:

According to google maps, the commute time would be about 1 hour using either the 2/11 to go downtown, then taking the D line to Ballard, or using the 48 to go to the University District, then the 44 to head west to Ballard.

-Space must be within city limits

-There's no restrictions on renting a whole unit (i.e., studio or one bedroom) or renting an available room in an already used space such as an open bedroom (which is what we chose).
-Rent (not including utilities) would not exceed 40% of take home pay.
-Commute should take no longer than about an hour (which essentially eliminates anything farther south than the Central District).
-Total move-in costs should not exceed $1000.
-There were no savings available to cover move-in costs.

Other things noticed:

-With commute times factored in, it would make almost as much sense to look for a job in the downtown core and commute from places like Federal Way or Shoreline, where housing costs are much cheaper.

-Move in costs are generally really large. The most "affordable" whole unit we could find was at least $750 per month with $500 security and admin costs, totaling $1250 or 83% of one months take home pay. Even room shares often required first and last months rent and a deposit.

-With our listing (assuming an electric bill of $80 and an internet bill of $40 per month, respectively), the total move-in costs (with no deposit or last month rent required, which is EXTREMELY rare), would be $619 ($515 rent + $60 utilities + $44 application fee / background check) or about 41% of take-home pay.

-Factoring in a qualification for the ORCA LIFT program, public transportation costs (assuming working 8 hour days, 5 days per week - which is, again, rare for an hourly wage worker) would equate to $3 per day, $15 dollars per week, and (assuming about 4.5 weeks per month) $66 per month. Meaning that total rent, utilities, and transportation would equal about $641 per month.

-For all intents and purposes the only affordable housing consists of housing shares / bedroom rentals / co-leasing with roommates. Even looking at the listing we provided, I have a hard time imagining we would be able to jump through this person's specific hurdles - meaning those that are wage workers are subject to more arbitrary processes and much longer timelines of actually being able to find housing within the city.

Michael Maddux

I tried. I really did. I started looking for a two-bedroom apartment (my daughter is 12 and needs her own space) but couldn’t find anything. Then, I broke down and figured I could sleep on the couch and give her the bedroom in a one-bedroom. This wouldn't be the first time that we lived this way. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing available that would allow a commute to the Ballard Taco Bell location making $11 per hour. Eventually, I identified a one-bedroom unit in the Meadowbrook View Apartments – a Low-Income Housing Institute property. At $750 per month, and assuming a 40 hour workweek and never being sent home and losing pay because of scheduling issues, this would consume nearly 50% of my family’s income. I would need to rely on additional publicly funded services – Medicaid, food assistance, and other available programs – in order to afford to raise my daughter here. To get to work, I would have to use my ORCA Lift pass to catch a 72 and transfer in the U-District to a 44.  I would spend nearly an hour in transit and arrive 40 minutes early for a shift starting at 10:00 a.m. If I was scheduled off at 6:30, I would be facing an hour commute home – but if I missed the bus that leaves at 6:41, I would have a 20 minute wait – getting home just in time to tuck my daughter into bed.

Currently, I pay about 40% of my after-tax income towards rent, and have seen my rent increase a little over 8% annually over the last three years. Unfortunately, if I were to look for a new place to live, not only would the monthly rent of the limited number of 2-bedroom apartments in our city lead to Lili and I being pushed to the edges of - if not entirely out of – the city we call home, but she would then be uprooted from her school, friends, and sports. On top of that, if we were able to identify housing that we could afford, the move-in costs – first and last months rent, security deposit, and however many credit checks and application fees it would take to secure housing would likely be insurmountable. So, instead of trying to find more affordable housing, we stay where we are, and continually tighten the belt with each rent increase.  

This is the struggle that I hear about from people around our district and across our city. We are raising the minimum wage - which is fantastic - but the lack of meaningful action on housing affordability (and affordability for small businesses) continues to force people out of our communities. I support reasonable caps on move-in fees, creation of a one-stop-shop for credit checks, and a meaningful conversation about what steps can be taken to slow down the explosive rise in rents for existing tenants. Of course we need to build more housing - both privately owned and publicly owned - but to imply that the free market alone will provide affordable housing for our communities is false. 

I am proud of my work collaborating with working families - at the bargaining table as a rank-and-file bargaining committee member of UFCW 1001, as a member of the Parks Levy Oversight Committee and Parks Legacy Committee, in my leadership positions within the Democratic Party. The Rental Housing Association of Washington - adamantly opposed to tenant protections - has their candidate, and believes that this collaboration must include them. RHA doesn't need an advocate on city council. I would much rather work with local landlords - and I have in crafting some of my policy proposals - who are looking out for the best interest of their tenants, than bring in RHA – consistent fighters of tenant protections – and ask tenants to compromise with respect to healthy, safe dwelling units, and reasonable rents. I bring the skill set, and experience, to be that advocate.

4) Time bandits

increasing numbers of workers get almost no notice at all of their schedules. Especially in food service, retail, and other low-wage industries, workers might not know when they’re working until a day or two before the workweek begins. Their hours can be changed with almost zero notice. Some are required to call-in every morning to see if they’re working that day. And the number of hours they’re scheduled for can vary wildly from week to week.

So we asked the candidates:

What policies do you believe should be advanced to ensure workers have access to fair workweeks? And since it’s related, we’d also like to hear a bit about what you think is the the right budget for and right approach to enforcing labor standards in our city.

Here's what the candidates sent in:

Rob Johnson

I would like to see legislation that requires employers to:

  • offer any additional hours of work to existing qualified part-time employees before hiring additional part-time employees or before securing additional employees through the services of a temporary services agency, -post schedules at least two-weeks in advance, and
  • provide pay to a worker when she/he is required to be “on-call” for a specified shift but the employer cancels the shift with less than 24 hours’ notice, as well as
  • prohibit employers from discriminating against part-time workers with respect to their rate of pay, access to employer-provided paid and unpaid time off, or access to promotion opportunities

In terms of passing such an ordinance, I have worked in the restaurant industry and know how hard it can be for part-time employees with scheduling issues, especially students and parents. I will draft legislation inline with my response above and help gather and lead a coalition to pass this measure. Through my work with Transportation Choices, I have a track record of working with broad coalitions of labor, business, and community groups to pass legislation through both ballot initiative and legislative bodies. If we cannot get the City Council to act on this, I will work to place this measure on the ballot for the City of Seattle.

We need to significantly increase the funding for the Office of Labor Standards in order to counter rampant wage theft in all industries and ensure that funding is going to remain stable over the long term so that they can not only respond to complaints, but also have the resources to handle proactive investigations. If we’re going to pass progressive policies, we need to ensure that employers are following it.  I would also add that in national rankings Washington State is consistently ranked as one of the best states to do business in while also having one of the highest minimum wages in the country.  We’re proving a model here that we can have an economy that supports just compensation to workers for their hard work while also creating more jobs and economic opportunity.  

One of the ways we can best ensure that our standards are being met is by opening up offices in neighborhoods in the district.  That kind of accessibility will allow individuals greater access to government (instead of having to come downtown during a weekday) and ideally will result in a more responsive and nimble approach to solving community problems as simple as helping to identify potholes that need filling to ones as complicated as working with victims of wage theft.

I'm proud of the support I've earned from some of the largest and most well respected labor organizations in the region, including the King County Labor Council, UFCW 21, SEIU 925 and Local 6, the Aerospace Machinists, Space Needle workers at Unite Here Local 8, and many more - and am confident in my ability to get Schedule Fairness passed, as well as an increase in budget for the Office of Labor standards, here in the City of Seattle.

Michael Maddux

First, thank you for your work educating voters this year! On to the question:

My very first job was with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Even though I was a teenager, it was not uncommon to be expected to close on a Friday, and return early Saturday to put away product, and get prepped for the day. Depending on how late cleanup took on Friday (frying chicken can be messy business), there could be as little as 7 hours between shifts - not including the time it took to travel to and from work. The only alternative to this schedule was no job and at that time, I was very interested in ensuring I had the guitars and gear to make music with my punk band, so I opted to keep the job. 

These conditions are intolerable for a teenager and are even worse for working parents. I've met with working people, and organizations that are providing the political support that low-wage workers rarely receive. As a Council Member I will fully continue to work with these groups to help develop proposals to address the uncertainty that comes with lack of advance scheduling; the financial insecurity that comes with not having a chance to go full-time when it's available, or being sent home early; as well as the clopening phenomenom. These proposals can be found on my website by clicking here

My entire Protecting Working Families platform piece, however, will be meaningless without adequate enforcement. While Senate Republicans have successfully ensured that Washington State Labor & Industries does not have the funding necessary to fully activate its investigative arm, we can do better in Seattle. Not only by providing adequate funding, and directing fines to support our investigative arm, but also ensuring through oversight that Office of Labor Standards is doing the job and has the resources necessary to be effective at protecting working families, and partnering with Labor and non-profit organizations to ensure all workers feel comfortable reporting less than scrupulous employers. Finally, where we lack the resources, we must ensure a private right of action, in a court of competent jurisdiction, exists. 


Check out for info about big-dollar independent expenditures in this year's City Council races.


Seattle Council District 4 covers Northeast Seattle (Wallingford, U District, Eastlake). City council races are officially non-partisan — nobody is listed on the ballot as a Democrat, a Republican, or a member of any other party. Neither of the candidates in this race currently serves on the City Council. 

Note: People who live in District 4 also get to vote in the races for the two council seats that represent everyone in the city — Position 8 and Position 9, so check out those guides too.


Ballots will be mailed out in mid-October, and must be postmarked by Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2015