100 Best Companies to Work For 2012: Nonprofit Companies


FIRST PLACE: Holy Names Academy

In 1880, the city of Seattle was little more than a rough-hewn timber town, replete with brothels, log booms and saloons—and one all-girls school. Holy Names Academy was founded that year by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and it has been educating some of Seattle’s finest young women ever since.

From the outside, Holy Names today appears to be rooted in its Catholic foundations: The domed exterior of the school’s neoclassical Capitol Hill building remains relatively unchanged from when it opened in 1908. But the structure of Holy Names has been evolving right along with the faculty, staff and student body. Original classrooms have been remodeled into spacious science labs. A gymnasium stands on former tennis courts. And a faculty that, in 1880, was composed entirely of Catholic nuns has evolved into a group of educators as diverse and multicultural as the student body itself.

How does Holy Names differentiate itself from other private schools in the Seattle area? “It’s the diversity of our community,” says Principal Liz Swift. “It’s the ethnic and the economic diversity of our students. And we have worked very hard to increase the ethnic diversity of our teaching staff.”

The academy’s benefits and perks make it easy to attract some of the best educators in the Pacific Northwest. Holy Names Academy’s faculty and staff receive fully paid medical and dental insurance, a ridiculously generous paid time off program and a summer sabbatical program that would make any teacher drool: All school employees are eligible for 10-, 20- and 30-year summer sabbatical grants equaling 15, 25 and 35 percent of their salaries, respectively.

Holy Names’ employees also reap the benefits of the employee-founded Active Club, which organizes healthy outings (hikes, bike rides and trips to farmers markets, for example) and frequent lunches. Add an annual Distinguished Teaching Award (good for a $2,500 stipend to the recipient), two annual retreats and an industry-best professional development program, and it’s easy to see why Holy Names is such a great place to work.

SECOND PLACE: Career Path Services

In healthy economies, job-placement organizations provide an important service. In hard times, they become vital. Career Path Services has been linking employers and workers in the Spokane Valley since 1971, and the organization is now more essential than ever. And Career Path Services doesn’t limit its focus to would-be workers and help-starved employers. It treats its own employees with some of the industry’s best benefits and perks, including full medical, dental and vision coverage; a compressed four-day workweek; excellent health and wellness reimbursements; and an annual team entry in Spokane’s famed Bloomsday Run.

THIRD PLACE: Sightlife

SightLife brings vision to those who need it most. It has been providing crucial cornea-banking services since 1969, linking donated corneas with needy individuals in the Pacific Northwest and California. (SightLife’s donated corneas cure blindness in 30 people each day.) The organization, which aims to eliminate cornea blindness worldwide, is saturated with a spirit of service: In addition to receiving fully covered medical insurance, a generous 401(k) employer match and ample opportunities for professional development, employees are able to donate their paid vacation time to coworkers in need.

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

With the economy soaring, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of Seattle’s minimum-wage hike. Some small-business owners remain dubious.
When the Seattle City Council passed the $15 minimum- wage ordinance in June 2014, David Lee, founder and CEO of the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, was not happy.
“The minimum wage hurts businesses like ours that compete on a national level,” says Lee, who believes it makes employers feel “cheap” and weakens “the goodwill that bound employers to employees.”
Even so, reflecting the mixed feelings of many Seattle businesses that want to do the right thing even as they struggle to survive, Lee decided to raise the minimum pay of his workers more than 20 percent — to $15 an hour — this fall, years before he was required to do so under the law.
“I wanted to get it behind me,” he explains.
Under a complex, multitiered system, Seattle companies with more than 500 employees must begin paying a $15-per-hour minimum wage starting in January. Companies with fewer than 501 employees  have until 2019, unless, like Lee, they provide health care or other benefits, in which case the $15 minimum wage rule applies to them beginning in 2021. Lee says his decision will cost Field Roast $300,000, about a quarter of its total earnings in 2015.
Ivar’s Seafood increased prices by 21 percent in 2015 to cover an increase in employees’ minimum wages to $15. The company didn’t have to start paying $15 an hour until next year, but Ivar’s President Bob Donegan believed it was the right thing to do. The decision helped resolve long-standing tension between lower-paid workers in the kitchen and wait staff who received much higher wages thanks to tips. Donegan says most patrons continue to tip even when they are told gratuities are now included in their bills.

A CASE OF COMPRESSION: Lynn Stacy unwraps grain meat for sausage products at Field Roast,
which has a flatter pay structure because of its higher minimum wage.

Some companies, however, remain concerned that the higher minimum wage could still hurt them. BrightStar Care, which offers home care and medical staffing in most states, is operating at a disadvantage because of the minimum wage, says CEO Shelly Sun. “Our Seattle franchise has only about 50 employees,” Sun notes, “but it’s being treated like a big business.”
Because Seattle treats the franchised operation of a national chain as if it were a large business, BrightStar will have to pay $15 an hour as of January, whereas some of its competitors with similar employee numbers in Seattle may not have to pay that much until 2019. Sun says a consequence may be reducing the size of the Seattle franchisee’s staff, which could have implications for clients.
Meanwhile, the national restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings says it is hesitant to expand in Seattle because the high minimum wage makes it economically inefficient to hire and train inexperienced workers. Still, what was once considered a movement isolated to “liberal” western cities like Seattle and San Francisco has gained sufficient momentum nationwide to be included in the national platform of the Democratic Party this election season. 
Thanks to Seattle’s strong labor market — the unemployment rate in the Seattle metropolitan area was 4.4 percent in July (compared to 5.8 percent statewide) — the higher wages have had little negative effect on the economy.
A report released in July by the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance concluded that the new minimum wage law hasn’t had a lot of upside, either. Since a strong labor market would have increased wages in any case, the study concluded, only a quarter of the recent gains could actually be attributed to the minimum-wage law — a little more than a few dollars a week. 

Revisiting the minimum-wage story | Seattle Business magazine examined the minimum-wage issue in its May 2014 issue, just as the Seattle City Council was considering an ordinance raising the minimum hourly rate to $15 in a gradual process over several years, depending on a company’s size. This is the magazine’s first follow-up since passage of the minimum-wage law.