Seattle Employees Ask for Reduced Hours-Truth! & Misleading!

Seattle Employees Ask for Reduced Hours-Truth! & Misleading!

Summary of eRumor:
Seattle employees asked employers to reduce their hours after the city council approved a $15 minimum wage to make sure they would still qualify for government assistance.
The Truth:
Claims that employees in Seattle have asked for reduced hours to make sure they’ll still qualify for government assistance after the city approved a $15 minimum wage are true.
However, it’s not clear how often that happens, so claims that this a growing trend or widespread issue are misleading.
In 2014, the Seattle City Council approved legislation that phases in a $15 minimum wage in the city. After mandatory wage increases in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (depending on company size), all workers in Seattle will earn at least $15 per hour by 2018.
The law has sparked nationwide debate about the impact a $15 minimum wage would have on job creation, unemployment and government assistance. A report by KIRO 7 in Washington about Seattle employees asking for reduced hours has been opponents of the $15 minimum wage to argue against the law.
Nora Gibson, the executive director of eldercare non-profit Full Life Care and a board member of the Seattle Housing Authority, told KIRO 7 in June 2015 that “anecdotally, some people feared they would lose their subsidized units but still not be able to afford market-rate rents” and had asked for their hours to be cut as a result:

For example, she said last week, five employees at one of her organization’s 24-hour care facilities for Alzheimer’s patients asked to reduce their hours in order to remain eligible for subsidies. They now earn at least $13 an hour, after they increased wages at all levels in April, Gibson said.

“This has nothing to do with people’s willingness to work, or how hard people work. It has to do with being caught in a very complex situation where they have to balance everything they can pull together to pull together a stable, successful life,” Gibson said.

Gibson said she fully supports a minimum wage increase but was not surprised when her employees asked for fewer hours.

“The jump from subsidized housing to market rate in Seattle is huge,” she said.

KIRO 7 quotes a woman in the report who says she’d be unable to afford market-rate housing in Seattle without a housing voucher — despite a $15 minimum wage — because of additional expenses like childcare that come along with full-time work:

Justine Decker, who is a full-time student at Seattle Central College, said she works part-time so she can still get subsidies for rent and child care.

“A one-bedroom can cost upward of $1,200. And so imagine paying that, and paying child care which can be $900 something dollars,” Decker said.

She said she doesn’t want to work full time, or she wouldn’t be able to afford market-rate rents. Decker said she’s in school to become a teacher and hopes to eventually become a principal, to make well over minimum wage levels to be able to pay for everything on her own.

It’s not clear how commonly workers decline to work full-time because they fear losing government assistance as a result of higher incomes. However, a Washington State University study published in April 2016 found that many workers in Seattle had concerns about the impact of higher wages on government assistance.
Jacob Vigdor, a co-author of the study, said:
“Today’s report documents both the hopes and fears that workers and business managers expressed as Seattle began its initiative to raise the minimum wage,” said Vigdor. “Business owners are hopeful that small changes to their operation — such as small price increases — will keep them in the black.”
“Workers are hopeful about the promise of greater income, but harbor few illusions about the potential for price increases, or reductions in government benefits, to eat away at these gains.”
So, in conclusion, it’s true that there are confirmed cases of Seattle workers asking to have their hours reduced — but it’s not clear how often that happens, which has led to some misleading claims.