This April 3 photo shows a tip box filled with U.S. currency. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

This April 3 photo shows a tip box filled with U.S. currency. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Washington minimum wage earners are about to get a raise

On New Year’s Day, they’ll make $13.50 an hour, up from the current $12 rate.

OLYMPIA — Tens of thousands of lower-wage workers across the state are about to get a raise.

On Jan. 1, Washington’s minimum wage will rise to $13.50 an hour, a nice bump from the current mark of $12 an hour.

It will be the highest of any state and close the gap on the District of Columbia where the hourly rate is $14. By comparison, the federal minimum wage will be $7.25 an hour.

In this state, wages will climb for full- and part-time workers in restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers, as well as in the agricultural and hospitality industries, and in some government jobs. An estimated 190,000 full-time equivalent positions — roughly 7.2% of all full-time equivalent jobs in the state — will be affected, according to the state Employment Security Department.

Next week’s increase will be the last of four hikes mandated by Initiative 1433 which 57.4% of voters approved in 2016.

Then, the minimum wage was $9.47 an hour. Under the ballot measure, the rate jumped to $11 in 2017. It climbed another 50 cents an hour in 2018 and reached the $12 mark this year.

The minimum wage law applies to workers age 16 and older. Under the law, employers can pay 85% of the minimum wage to 14- and 15-year-olds. For 2020, that will be $11.48. Tips do not count toward a worker’s minimum wage, according to the state Department of Labor & Industries.

And in places like Seattle and SeaTac, where the local minimum wage is higher than the state’s, employers must continue to pay the local rate. Seattle is currently at $15 an hour and SeaTac is at $15.64 an hour.

The minimum wage in Washington has climbed a little almost every year since 1989.

In 1998, voters approved Initiative 688 which required an annual cost-of-living adjustment to the minimum wage based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Initiative 1433 set out those specific increases. Starting in 2021 the process will revert back to the way it had been with annual adjustments tied to inflation.

The state Department of Labor & Industries enforces the state’s wage-and-hour laws. If you believe your rights under the law have been violated you can file a complaint and it can be done online at

Employers and workers may also call (360) 902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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