Just days before Washington’s Governor Mike Inslee called for a minimum wage increase in his State of the State address, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray stated he was looking for non-ballot measure methods for raising the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. These decisions come on the heels of heavily covered SeaTac’s voter approved minimum wage increase and Congressional debates with Presidential backing over a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.
Minimum Wage: Washington vs. The Other States
The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was in 2009, when it reached the current $7.25 an hour. Thirteen states and a few cities, including Washington and SeaTac, will be increasing their minimum wage levels this year. At $9.32 an hour, Washington will continue to have the highest minimum wage in the country, until next year when California is set to increase its minimum wage to $10. Additionally, SeaTac leads the country in city minimum wage levels, beating San Francisco, who also increased its minimum wage this year.
Even though Washington and SeaTac lead the nation with their minimum wages, the cost of living and inflation are still having a significant impact on the state’s minimum wage earners. Governor
Inslee did not specify to what level he wants to raise the minimum wage, but, according to the King5.com story, the state could reasonably look to a minimum wage “somewhere between $10.82 and
$11.82.” One reason for not seeking $15 or giving a firm number is that a minimum wage jump from $9.32 to $15 or some non-negotiable number would be dramatic. It could also discourage businesses from staying or coming into Washington, since businesses could find cheaper labor in neighboring states that either use federal minimum wage levels or have not increased their minimum wage as high. Additionally, allowing debate and negotiation would allow unions, businesses, and the people of Washington to reach a less contentious minimum wage.
Mayor Murray, on the other hand, clearly stated that he is looking to a $15 minimum wage for city employees. According to CNNMoney, the minimum wage increase would affect about 600 employees and is estimated to cost the city an additional $700,000. However, with the increased wages, employees are expected to have additional income which will be put back into the economy. The mayor hopes Seattle will be a model for other cities and business and is concerned that Seattle is becoming too expensive for many of the middle-class who are vital to keeping the city diverse and prosperous. He also wants to avoid similar on-going legal battles faced by SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage measure which is appealing the current ruling that exempts Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the city’s largest employer, from the increase.
While cities and the state continue to ponder the appropriate minimum wage level, employers are still required to pay at least the current minimum wage to their. If you have been denied your earned wages, an experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.