Voters will be asked to decide the future of our state’s minimum wage on the November ballot.
If approved, Initiative 1433 would increase the minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 an hour by 2020. It would also require employers to provide paid sick leave for their workers.
We certainly want folks to earn a wage they can live on. But our state has one of the highest minimum wage rates in the nation and already has a mechanism for increases based on the cost of living.
The federal government mandates that $7.25 be the minimum a worker can be paid per hour and states can enhance that figure. Washington has been at the top of the state rankings for pay, based on a ballot initiative voters approved in 1998.
That mechanism has had our minimum wage making steady increases for the past several years and will do the same in the future.
The proposed initiative tries to blanket our state with a one-size-fits-all approach that just doesn’t work in Washington. It clearly does not cost the same to live in Seattle as it does in Benton City or Mesa. Cities have the ability to approve a minimum wage above the state standard, just as SeaTac and Seattle have done, to more closely align pay with actual costs to live in those places.
Those railing for the initiative seem to forget that those who would earn the higher wage are not the only ones affected.
Somebody has to pay it. Business owners would likely be forced to make difficult choices should the initiative pass as the expense would fall to them. They are already grappling with the system we have now and its steady increases. The kind of leap required by the initiative would surely be more than some could bear.
Difficult choices would have to be made. Business closures, reduction of their work force or a reduction in employee hours would all be possibilities, as would raising the prices of goods and services.
It doesn’t do a person much good to make more per hour but have fewer hours. Or to have employers close up shop.
Wages are typically the greatest cost for a business. It is a delicate balancing act and one many business owners already struggle with. The system already in place for the minimum wage seems equitable to both the employer and employee when striking that balance.
Both those for and against the initiative can cite all kinds of studies and reports to support their positions. Heck, sometimes they are using the same report and same data to make opposite points. Studies cited by the proponents indicating there was not a negative impact on jobs when there was a minimum wage increase were done using increases that were smaller and/or staged over a longer period of time than what this proposes, rendering them questionably applicable.
We’re not opposed to looking at a change to the minimum wage but there should be consideration for differing costs of living and training wages, neither of which this initiative offers. This issue needs more study and debate.
We encourage you to vote No on Initiative 1433.
Look for our recommendation Tuesday in the race for superintendent of public instruction.