The Stand

Let’s extend passion of 12’s to passing $12 minimum wage

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By JOHN BURBANK


(Jan. 28, 2015) — 12… 12… 12… It seems that everywhere we look, we see 12. Windows, doors, cars, shirts, socks…12, 12, 12. Which is as it should be, leading up to the 2nd Super Bowl in a row for the Seahawks.

There are 11 Seahawks on the field at any one time and they are surrounded by the masses of fans — the 12th man. 12 has come to own Seahawks football. The Seahawks are individual world-class athletes. But they win only as a team and we spur them on as a several-million-member community of fans.

So 12 is key to paving the way to the Super Bowl. It is also a key to decent pay in our state.

12th-man-flag-wikiIn Olympia there is a movement for 12 as well. It won’t end on Sunday. It is a movement to establish $12 an hour as our statewide minimum wage. Right now the state minimum wage is $9.47. That comes out to an annual full-time wage of $19,697.60, which is $16,839 less than what the hypocritical and puritanical NFL chieftains fined Marshawn Lynch, Jermaine Kearse, and Chris Matthews at the NFC Championships for celebrating touchdowns.

Think about that $19,697.60… What could you do with all that money? $1,500 goes automatically to Social Security and Medicare. Then you could rent a one-bedroom apartment in Everett for $765 a month ($9,000 plus a year). That leaves you with about $9,000. Then you spend $150 on food each week. There goes another $8,000. You have $1,000 to go, with no car, no bus pass, no health coverage, no phone, no tuition money for education.

If we look back, we find a time in which the minimum wage purchased a lot more than now. In 1968, the minimum wage of $1.60 was the equivalent of $10.88 in 2014, or $1.56 more than what our minimum wage actually was last year. So looking forward, why not $12? It is a good number, a reasonable goal, and certainly something that should be the floor for wages.

That is what Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) has in mind. She is the author of the $12 minimum wage bill. She is joined by 42 other state representatives as co-sponsors. There is an identical bill in the state senate, sponsored by Sen. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) and 20 additional senators.

This $12 an hour minimum wage takes a conservative approach. It goes up to $10 in 2016, $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018 and $12 in 2019. After that, it has an automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), to keep up with inflation. With these small steps, it is quite likely that when it reaches $12, it still won’t have the purchasing power that minimum wage workers had in 1968. So this bill is a step, but not the total solution to workers who work themselves into poverty when their employers pay them no more than our current minimum wage.

How will $12 help our economy? By putting more money into it. Minimum wage workers don’t have the luxury of investing their money. They spend it. In 2016, with the increase to $10 an hour, each worker will earn about $1,000 more. By 2018, at $12 an hour, these workers will earn $2.53 more per hour, adding up to $5,000 a year. For the approximately 300,000 workers who will directly benefit, that equals about $1.5 billion a year altogether.   That’s good for the economy and good for business. For these workers, it means they might be able to do a little better than just pay the rent and utilities. They might actually be able to enjoy a beer and eat some nachos, like pretty much all of us will be doing next Sunday.

burbank-johnSo let’s not let 12 end when the clock runs down at the Super Bowl Sunday evening, win or lose. Increasing the minimum wage to $12 enables us to own 12 in our hearts. It is the right thing to do. It is a win for all of us! Go Hawks!


John Burbank is the executive director and founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle. John can be reached at john@eoionline.org.

Short URL: http://www.thestand.org/?p=37328

Posted by on Jan 28 2015. Filed under OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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