What Does Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Mean for Tacoma?

Yesterday the Seattle City Council embarked on a grand experiment that will make the city's minimum wage the highest in the country. The $15 minimum wage will be phased in over the coming years at different rates depending on business size and other compensation made available to employees.

Getting the minimum wage passed wasn't exactly without contention, but it does seem to have gone more smoothly than elsewhere in the country. Seattle's Mayor Murray put together a group of leaders and stakeholders from all sides of the issue, and asked them to work it out. And they did.

So now, depending on who you read, Seattle is either leading the nation towards a more progressive wage structure, or taking a precarious misstep that will lead to businesses fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. 

In the meantime, what, if anything, does the $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle mean for Tacoma?

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We haven’t followed Seattle’s lead on paid sick leave yet, so I don’t know if a $15 minimum wage will impact Tacoma minimum wage policy either.  On another policy front, Seattle is proposing a city measure to restore local transit service.

In all of these instances Seattle’s mayor has brought people together to broker a deal.  Tacoma’s Council-Manager system makes this a little more difficult to do, because you have to first convince a majority of Councilmembers that there’s an issue and then you have to get them to agree on a course of action to even study an issue.  In these cases, a little more executive authority might not be such a bad thing.

Also it’s worth noting that a bit of political pressure from the initiative system was applied by the grassroots, prompting elected officials to “seize the microphone” of sorts and propose their own plans.

June 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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As a matter of state policy, I don’t think it’s good idea to let cities set their own minimum wages.  (The State of Oregon agrees with me, which is why Portland won’t be next in line for $15/hour). 

I’d rather see a comprehensive state-wide solution to our very real inequality problem.  That could include raising the state minimum wage to something less than $15/hour and replacing at least some of the sales tax revenue that’s disproportionately derived from minimum wage workers with a progressive state income tax.  This should be structured to result in increased revenue overall for education, public infrastructure (transit, roads, etc.), and social services for low wage workers and their kids. 

Since those larger reforms are unlikely to happen in the near term, it will be interesting to see how Seattle’s move affects employment and commuting patterns, as well as the cultural, political, and (to some extent) class divide between Seattle and virtually everywhere else in the state.

June 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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