The following is an open letter written by Got Green that was sent to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council on May 28. Got Green is a grassroots group in the Seattle area led by young adults and people of color that promotes the movement for an equitable, green economy as the best way to fight poverty and global warming at the same time.
Dear Seattle Mayor and City Council,
We’ve been following the recent debate about including a “training wage” in the City’s new $15 minimum wage ordinance. Got Green wants to go on record opposing a “training wage” or any other effort to diminish and devalue young people’s labor.
Got Green is a grassroots community organization in Southeast Seattle led by people of color and young adults. We work towards environmental and economic justice by raising up new leaders to call for access to healthy food, living wage local jobs, and paid work experience programs. We support environmental solutions that will uplift our communities most often left behind and create real sustainability.
In 2013 young leaders at Got Green surveyed 146 of our peers (18-34 years old) and the issues of access to living wage jobs, paid work experience opportunities, and pathways to sustainable careers were priority issues. Our report, Environmental Justice, Jobs and Education: Seattle’s Young Adults Speak Out details young workers struggles to make ends meet in our city.
Proponents of a “training wage” say that it will prevent young people, people of color, and new immigrants from losing their jobs and open opportunity for future employment. Business wants us to believe that a “training wage” is a new model of affirmative action for our communities.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rather than lifting up young workers, the “training wage” will continue to deny opportunity and fair wages to the residents of our City who most need them.
laira Le, 19, a core member of our Young Leaders in the Green Movement team exemplifies the situation that many young workers find themselves in. In her early teens, Claira began working in order to support her family. Her wages have always supported family needs: food, clothing, school supplies. Like many teens from low income and immigrant families, Claira has to have a job.
The “training wage” would do nothing to provide Claira Le and many Got Green members with the opportunity to improve their standard of living. The “training wage” will incentivize short-term employment; What is to stop businesses from firing young workers before they ever reach a living wage?
If our City is serious about promoting opportunities for young people of color in the workplace, then we should be creating more living wage paid work experience programs that lead to career-path employment. A sustainable city is made up of both a healthy natural environment as well as healthy, thriving, economically stable communities. A training wage will create neither. Say “NO” to a training wage.
Jill Mangaliman (32), Got Green Executive Director
Young Leaders in the Green Movement Steering Committee Members:
Claira Le (19)
Yolanda Matthews (33)
Duc Huynh (21)
Khalil Panni (23)
Mo! Avery (31)