OLYMPIA (Jan. 24, 2014) — Surrounded by supporters representing labor, small business, community and religious organizations, state Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) and 32 other House Democrats on Thursday introduced a HB 2672 today that will raise the state minimum wage for adults to $12 an hour over the next three years and then resume annual increases to adjust for inflation.
“We know our economy is stronger when an honest day’s work is rewarded with a fair wage,” Farrell said. “During the recovery, top earners have done quite well, the stock market has seen record highs, and corporate profits have never been better. This bill rewards work, moves the economy forward, and promotes fundamental economic fairness.”
HB 2672 is strongly supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and many other labor organizations that led the successful 1998 initiative to make Washington the first state to index its minimum wage.
TAKE A STAND! Call your State Representatives and Senators on the toll-free Legislative Hotline 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message urging them to support HB 2672. Tell them that taxpayers should be forced to subsidize businesses that pay poverty wages because their employees can’t afford housing, health care and other basic needs. Full-time workers in America should not be forced to live in poverty!
The WSLC released the following fact sheet Thursday in conjunction with the announcement. (Download a printable version of this two-page document.)
No one who works full time should have to live in poverty. That was the message of the 1998 campaign to establish a state minimum wage that automatically adjusts for inflation. Washington voters in every county of the state approved that initiative by an overall 2-to-1 margin. That popular policy has served our state well, in comparison to other states and the federal government, which have allowed their minimum wages to stagnate and lose value over the years. That’s why a coalition of labor and community groups will support HB 2672 to raise the minimum wage to $12, phased in over three years, and then to continue inflation-indexed increases.
At $9.32 an hour (effective Jan. 1, 2014), a full-time minimum wage worker in Washington still earns less than $20,000 per year. The minimum wage is supposed to assure “the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.” But according to the 2013 Job Gap Study by the Alliance for a Just Society, a single adult worker needs to earn at least $16.04 an hour to meet his or her basic needs (click to enlarge chart).
As America’s economy has changed, more and more adults are employed at or near the minimum wage. Gone are the days that minimum wages were just for teenagers. A 2013 Economic Policy Institute study found that 88% of workers who would be affected by a federal minimum wage increase are at least 20 years old, fully one third are at least 40 years old, and 56% are women.
Polls show that Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike, support raising the minimum wage. People share frustration that full-time workers require public assistance just to meet their basic needs for food, housing and health care. The effect of minimum wages that are too low to survive is a massive public subsidy of the fast-food, retail, hospitality, and other industries that pay poverty wages.
There is momentum in Washington state for raising the minimum wage. Voters in SeaTac just approved a measure to increase airport workers’ minimum wage to $15/hour (in addition to providing paid sick days and stopping employer seizures of tips). Seattle’s new mayor and newest councilmember both support raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour.
Raising the minimum wage will put money in people’s pockets. money that will be spent at local businesses and boost our state economy. The dire predictions of job loss made by opponents of raising the minimum wage—primarily the very industries that pay that wage—have never come true. In fact, Washington’s economy has outperformed that of neighboring states with lower minimum wages. That’s because higher wages get circulated in local communities, creating a virtuous cycle that benefits both businesses and working families.
Low-wage workers are also at the highest risk for retaliation when they try to assert their rights under the law. While most employers do their best to pay workers lawfully — or quickly remedy problems when they are identified — certain bad actors do not pay what is owed even when presented with evidence showing the shortfall. Even worse, some employers will retaliate against these workers by cutting their hours, terminating their employment, or threatening immigration-related actions. This is amoral and unacceptable, yet there are few protections in state wage-and-hour laws to protect workers from such actions. That is why it is so important for the Legislature to enact anti-retaliation legislation to protect workers who try to get paid what they have earned.