The Seattle City Council passed a resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park), declaring the Council’s intent to consider funding equitable wage increases for human services workers to address the city’s staffing crisis. The resolution also requests that other public and private funders also produce recommendations to collectively address wage equity before Council’s budget deliberations this fall.
“It is impossible to end our homelessness emergency without fully staffing and fairly paying human services work. These workers are on the streets every day helping people in their hour of greatest need. We rely on them to tackle the city’s biggest crises, from homelessness to hunger, childcare and elder care,” said Councilmember Herbold.
“This is a major step toward fair pay for the life-saving services they provide. Without doing so, our City’s Human Services Department (HSD) will fall further behind, competing to hire the same pool of workers as King County, but offering lower wages. If we expect Seattle to respond effectively to homelessness, we can’t tie the hands of HSD by funding only low wages,” she continued.
Workers on the frontlines addressing our region’s most urgent challenges, including homelessness, domestic violence, childcare, hunger, and elder care, are not paid fairly.
A recent University of Washington Study found nonprofit human services workers are paid 37 percent less than workers in other industries, despite the fact their work is not easier, not less skilled, nor less demanding. Those who leave human services for other work get a seven percent increase in net pay, within just a year of leaving.
This pay inequity undermines Seattle’s ability to address the homelessness crisis. A 2022 King County Regional Homelessness Authority survey found the five largest homelessness service providers in King County had more than 300 vacant positions they could not fill. The staffing shortage is so severe it has restricted our region’s ability to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets even after we have created new housing for them to live in.
What the resolution does
The resolution passed today acknowledges the Council’s responsibility to work toward wage equity for nonprofit human services workers. It creates a roadmap to do that by, among other things, recognizing the recommendations made in the UW wage equity study, requesting recommendations from private and public funders to make progress on wage equity collectively, and stating the Council’s intent to consider recommendations increasing HSD-administered contracts by seven percent by 2025 to increase wages for human services workers.
The resolution also makes clear that, if made, these wage equity adjustments will be in addition to the inflationary adjustments required under City law.
Read the full list of actions outlined by the resolution here.
“We found strong and consistent evidence of gaps between what non-profit human services workers are paid and what other workers are paid. I’m pleased to see that the Council is considering ways to address this inequity,” said Dr. Jennie Romich, Professor at UW School of Social Work and Lead researcher of the UW Wage Equity Study of Nonprofit Human Service Worker Wages.
“Human Services staff are predominantly BIPOC women, they work each day to create the vibrant, safe, and welcoming community we all want. A vote in favor of this resolution is a vote for racial equity and economic justice,” said Janice Deguchi, Executive Director of Neighborhood House, and Co-Chair of the Raising Wages for Changing Lives campaign.
“We are seeing more and more unhoused people come into the Senior Center and we’re struggling to find resources for them to get help. Wherever we send them, for housing or other services, there is a long wait. This is directly related to low staffing and high turnover at human services agencies. This legislation is a good first step in addressing the needs of all our neighbors living in West Seattle,” said Amy Lee Derenthal, Executive Director of the Senior Center of West Seattle, and Co-Chair of the SHSC City Budget Taskforce.