Mayor Ed Murray on Friday named Dylan Orr to lead Seattle’s new Office of Labor Standards, but some are mad because Orr wasn’t among the candidates picked by a stakeholder group.
Mayor Ed Murray on Friday named Dylan Orr to lead Seattle’s new Office of Labor Standards, saying Orr “has the right background and leadership experience” to oversee the city’s worker protections, including its much-heralded minimum-wage law.
But some labor leaders blasted Murray for surprising them by picking someone other than one of four candidates recommended by a search committee of stakeholders.
“We don’t know what happened, we’re disappointed and we’re wondering why,” said Sarah Cherin, political director for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 21 and one of the search committee’s 12 members. “We want to be good partners with the city, but this leaves us confused about what the future is going to look like.”
The Office of Labor Standards, established this year, drew criticism for lacking a permanent director when Seattle’s new minimum-wage law took effect April 1.
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City Councilmember Nick Licata called the agency’s startup “too slow” and a company hired to help officials find a director was advertising the job on Craigslist.
The position’s volunteer-search committee — composed of union, business and nonprofit leaders — worked with Murray administration officials and overcame a number of disagreements to select four candidates, said David Freiboth, King County Labor Council executive secretary and a committee member.
By choosing someone else, the mayor has wasted an opportunity to build on goodwill built between the business and labor communities and has made it more likely that one side or the other will complain about how the new agency is run, Freiboth said.
“We thought we had a nice mix for him and then he ignored us,” said Freiboth. “This feels like it was a waste of time … I’m all about the Seattle process and I’m happy to volunteer my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever been treated this callously.”
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which had a representative on the search committee, said it had no comment.
Orr, a Seattle native, spent five years at the U.S. Department of Labor, including two years as chief of staff in the Office of Disability Employment Policy, where he supervised more than 50 people, according to a Murray news release.
The University of Washington School of Law graduate worked with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said this release, which included an endorsement of Orr from Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
Viet Shelton, spokesman for Murray, said Orr initially applied for a position in the mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation — not for the Office of Labor Standards job.
“His résumé and experience and early interviews were exceptional in terms of what we were looking for in an (Office of Labor Standards) director, so his name floated to the top to be considered for that,” Shelton said.
The candidates forwarded by the search committee each were qualified, he said.
Orr will make $118,000 a year. He was the first openly transgender person appointed by President Obama’s administration.
“Whether he really understands labor’s perspective and what the activist community is doing to help workers in need is not demonstrated by his background,” Freiboth said.
“But his background looks fairly impressive in terms of his work in government. It’s really too bad he’s getting a contentious start like this.”