Equityless in Seattle
Seattle city government has serious issues with racial equity in promotion — and its employment policies in general.
A new report requested by Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales and released by the city auditor on Sept. 19 showed that upper management positions receive a disproportionate amount in raises compared to lower-level employees. In 2021, staff who made more than $80 an hour averaged a 20% pay increase when receiving a promotion, compared to a raise of less than 7% for those making under $38 an hour.
Additionally, the auditor found that Indigenous workers and women of color received far lower raises than their peers as a result of promotions.
One of the recommendations from the report is that the city should urgently update its civil service classification system, which hasn’t seen an overhaul since the early ’90s.
In a statement, Morales said that the report reaffirmed how women of color face employment discrimination on a structural level.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to change the culture in the City so that we can build a more sustainable and healthy work environment for all,” she said.
Care, not cops
A new report discussed by the King County Board of Health on Sept. 21 found that community members say more resources need to be funneled into health care services for people with substance use disorders.
The University of Washington School of Nursing study, which was co-commissioned by Seattle and the county, surveyed people who have been impacted by the fentanyl and opioid crises, as well as the service providers who help them.
In addition to expanding services, the report found that local governments should adopt more harm reduction strategies. These are policies that focus on mitigating overdose deaths and drug-induced serious illnesses, as opposed to requiring individuals to become sober first.
Notably, many stakeholders said that criminalization was unhelpful when addressing the opioid crisis and that money should be redirected from jailing people into trauma-informed health care. This is a sharp rebuke to a the Seattle City Council, which passed a law earlier this month that penalized people who use drugs in public.
Restoring the canopy
Seattle secured a $12.9 million federal grant on Sept. 18 to restore some of the city’s declining urban forests. Money will be allocated to city contractors to plant and care for trees in neighborhoods that have historically been redlined and faced environmental injustices, including the South End.
The money will also fund a training program for young people to enter the growing sector, which includes landscape architecture and forest management. Some of the money is also slated for a Delridge native forest garden.
Read more of the Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 2023 issue.