Federal Judge Sends SeaTac Min. Wage Case Back to State Court

Nov 21, 2013

A federal judge has granted the request from Alaska Airlines, the Washington Restaurant Association and a small business owner at Sea-Tac International Airport to send their case back to a Washington state court. The businesses want SeaTac's Proposition 1, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some workers, to be ruled illegal. 

The legal tussle over Proposition 1 comes even before results in the extremely close election have been certified. As of the most recent ballot count, the measure is winning by 57 votes. King County will certify the election results on Nov. 26. 

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman heard arguments from Alaska Airlines and the other plaintiffs Wednesday, along with arguments from SeaTac Committee for Good Jobs, the union-backed group that sponsored the initiative. They had moved the case from Washington state court to federal court on Nov. 8.

The lawsuit has been going on since July, when Alaska Airlines and the other businesses sued to block the measure from going on the ballot. Then three days after the election, as the measure seemed to be passing, they filed an amended complaint, adding the Port of Seattle as a defendant along with the city of SeaTac and the clerk of the city of SeaTac. 

Judge Pechman said in her order that the issue isn't ripe for federal court because the election results are still uncertain. A hearing is set for Dec. 13 before King County Court Judge Andrea Darvas, who heard the initial case during the summer.

Darvas ruled in favor of Alaska Airlines, saying there weren't sufficient valid petition signatures to put the measure on the ballot. She was overturned by a state Appeals Court, a decision that was upheld by the state Supreme Court.