Chinook Enterprises' grounds division threatened by prevailing wage increase

Thursday, February 28, 2019

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MOUNT VERNON – The application of a new law threatens to bench Chinook Enterprises’ grounds division and put 14 employees, nine of whom have disabilities, out of work. Chinook Enterprises is a social enterprise company that supports people with disabilities.

The issues arose from the Department of Labor and Industries’ determination applying to SB 5493 that the prevailing wage for landscape construction workers be raised to $59.49 per hour for work at municipal properties. All of Chinook Enterprises’ grounds division’s work is performed on those properties.

With the prevailing wage increase, Chinook Enterprises stands to lose its grounds division contracts as local municipalities seek less expensive options for landscape maintenance. Public entities would be allowed to hire grounds maintenance workers at a far lower wage – close to minimum wage – as opposed to contracting with other entities that would be obliged to pay its workers the prevailing wage.

To resolve the situation, Chinook Enterprises is seeking a new category that better represents the type of work its grounds division performs, such as groundskeeper or lawn care work. Its workers became lumped into the landscape construction category because its workers use some equipment including mowers and wheelbarrows.

EDASC’s board of directors has taken a stance in support of Chinook Enterprises. In a letter written to Department of Labor and Industries, EDASC CEO John Sternlicht stated, “This matter is of the utmost urgency and very real and devastating financial consequences will ensue for Skagit County companies if this issue does not achieve resolution.”

Sternlicht noted Skagit County has several businesses that provide landscaping services to the public sector that will also be negatively impacted by the prevailing wage change.

To learn more about the issue or send a letter in favor of Chinook Enterprises to the Department of Labor and Industries visit this link.

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