Apple Expands Seattle Footprint in Bid to Compete for City’s Tech Talent

Apple Expands Seattle Footprint in Bid to Compete for City’s Tech Talent

Apple is adding a floor to its offices in downtown Seattle, giving the company enough room to seat nearly 500 employees there, Nat Levy reports at GeekWire:

Apple is preparing to move into another floor at Two Union Square, a 56-story office tower in downtown Seattle, giving it all or part of five floors of the building, GeekWire has learned through permitting documents and visits to the building. The latest move brings Apple to more than 70,000 square feet, which equates to room for somewhere between 350 and 475 people, based on standard corporate leasing ratios for tech companies.

The iPhone maker announced big plans to expand its presence on Puget Sound last year, as Levy’s colleague Todd Bishop reported at the time, after buying up the Seattle-based machine learning startup Turi and establishing a $1 million endowed professorship in artificial intelligence and machine learning at the University of Washington. Competing for AI talent is decidedly the name of the game here, Levy explains, as the northwestern city is emerging as a hub for this new technology. Amazon and Microsoft are based in or near Seattle, while Facebook and Google both have significant footprints there.

All these tech giants are racing toward potentially transformative innovations in AI and machine learning; to this end, they have been grabbing all the experts they can get their hands on for the past few years, often by acqui-hiring startup founders and talent.

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Conflicting Studies Fuel Debate Over Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage

Conflicting Studies Fuel Debate Over Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage

In 2014, officials in Seattle voted to gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. The minimum rose from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016 (these figures are for large businesses; smaller employers are allowed to pay a slightly lower wage). In the past week, two studies have been published that reach opposite conclusions about the impact of these increases on low-wage employees, reigniting the controversy over whether minimum wage hikes are actually good for the people they are meant to help.

The first study, released last week by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed the effects of the $13 wage floor on the city’s restaurant industry and found no evidence of job loss as a result of the increase. The second, conducted by a team of University of Washington economists and published as a working paper on Monday at the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at a larger data set and came to the conclusion that “the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.”

Neither paper has yet been subject to peer review.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage have jumped on the University of Washington study, which used data from Washington State’s unemployment insurance program to identify low-wage workers in Seattle and compare them to others throughout the state, as evidence that such hikes are harmful, not helpful, to low-income Americans. The findings are bound to be controversial both politically and within the field of economics, as they appear to contradict what most recent minimum-wage research has found, but many economists seem to find them credible, Max Ehrenfreund reports at the Washington Post:

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Seattle Mandates ‘Secure Scheduling’ for Retail and Fast-Food Employees

Seattle Mandates ‘Secure Scheduling’ for Retail and Fast-Food Employees

The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously approved a new law that requires large retail and fast-food employers to schedule employees’ shifts 14 days in advance and compensate them for any last-minute changes to their schedules, the Seattle Times reports:

The law is expected to take effect in July and will apply to large retailers and quick-serve food and drink establishments with 500 or more workers, and to full-service restaurants with both 500 or more employees and 40 or more locations. Backers say the law will protect employees from erratic and variable work schedules and from not getting enough work hours.

Employers would be required to give good-faith estimates of hours an employee can expect to work upon hiring, post work schedules two weeks in advance, provide at least 10 hours rest between opening and closing shifts, give available hours to existing part-time employees before hiring new workers, and pay additional “predictability pay” when employers make changes to the posted schedule. The measure also requires employers to keep records for three years, documenting everything from responses to employee requests for schedule changes to good-faith estimates of the number of hours an employee could expect to work.

San Francisco became the first American municipality to mandate “fair scheduling” when its Board of Supervisors passed a “retail workers’ bill of rights” in 2014. New York City officials also announced last week that they were looking into introducing similar legislation for fast food workers. Prompted in part by the rise of scheduling software that allows employers to staff more efficiently but leaves many employees not knowing their work schedules until the last moment, the fight over scheduling is fast supplanting efforts to raise minimum wage as the labor cause du jour, Adam Chandler remarks at the Atlantic:

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In Minimum Wage Battle, Seattle Franchisees Take Case to Supreme Court

A group of five franchise owners in Seattle, along with the International Franchise Association, have filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking it to rule on whether the $15-an-hour minimum wage ordinance passed by the city council in 2014 should treat franchises as small businesses, the Guardian reports:

“Our appeal has never sought to prevent the City of Seattle’s wage law from going into effect. Our appeal to the Supreme Court will be focused solely on the discriminatory treatment of franchisees under Seattle’s wage law and the motivation to discriminate against interstate commerce,” Robert Cresanti, IFA president and CEO, said in a statement on Monday.

The Seattle law, the IFA claims, discriminates against franchisees by considering them part of large corporations – like McDonald’s or Burger King – instead of as small businesses that they insist they are. When the law was first passed in 2014, the IFA and the five franchisees sued the city and lost. When the US ninth circuit court of appeals sided with the lower court and also ruled against the franchisees in September 2015, Cresanti hinted that they would attempt to bring the case to the supreme court.

The controversy centers on the different requirements the law imposes on small and large businesses. Organizations with more than 500 employees in the US are required to pay their employees in Seattle at least $15 an hour by the start of next year. Those with 500 employees or fewer are considered small businesses and are allowed an additional four years to comply with the new minimum wage.

The city is expected to issue a response to the brief within 30 days, but the court may not decide whether to take up the case until the spring.