Study effects of laws boosting minimum wage

The state of Oregon is the latest to join the march of states and municipalities that are raising their minimum wage rates in answer to calls to close the nationwide gap on income inequality and stagnant wages.

Its governor on Wednesday signed legislation that over the next six years will boost its minimum wage from the current $9.25 to $15 an hour in Portland and to lower amounts in the state’s smaller cites and in its rural areas.

For years, Washington state’s lowest-income workers enjoyed the highest minimum wage in the nation following the passage of Initiative 688 in 1998 that raised the wage floor and provided for annual adjustments based on the rate of inflation. The state’s current rate is $9.47 an hour, which now puts it behind California and Massachusetts at $10, Alaska at $9.75 and Rhode Island and Vermont and Connecticut at $9.60. Minnesota’s rate increases to $9.50 for large employers this summer. For comparison, the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

That march of other states past Washington hasn’t gone unnoticed here.

A coalition of state labor groups and others, Raise Up Washington, currently is collecting signatures for an initiative that seeks to increase the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years. It would also require employers to allow employees to accrue an hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The campaign needs to collect 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

As well, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, proposed legislation that would have raised the wage to $12 an hour over four years and also included a provision for sick leave. Hobbs’ bill, Senate Bill 6087, got a hearing before a Senate committee but has gone no further during a session that wraps up next week.

Before Oregon, of course, the cities of Seattle and SeaTac, passed their own increases to $15 an hour.

Those wage increases in cities and states across the country also have provided a boost in the debate about the effects of the increases on income, on jobs and on the businesses who are paying salaries and benefits. While supporters consider the increases necessary to providing liveable wages to families, critics have countered that the raises will work against those families as employers pull back jobs or even go out of business.

As yet, there’s not a lot of clear data from which to draw conclusions. An article in Forbes last September pointed to a spike in Seattle’ unemployment rate, but that was countered by commentary last month in the Los Angeles Times that noted that both Everett and Bellevue, which hadn’t passed similar minimum wage laws, saw similar spikes in the unemployment rate for the same period.

Fortunately, the issue is being studied by a team working through the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Initially focused on Seattle’s law, the study has been expanded to Chicago to track the impact of the minimum wage increases on the larger labor market, on businesses and nonprofits and in families’ daily lives.

The team’s first comprehensive report is expected this June, but some initial findings it released found only negligible impacts on consumer prices in 2015 when the wage increased to $11 an hour. But it also reported a 7.7 percent increase in restaurant prices but didn’t have the data to make comparisons to prices in the surrounding area.

The UW team’s June report won’t provide all the answers sought, as much will depend as wage rates are phased in over the next several years. A study of the effects of Oregon’s new law, because of the different rates it sets for different regions, also would be beneficial.

But the UW study should allow some guidance to voters and to other municipalities as this and other options for promoting jobs that secure liveable wages are considered.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

EMBARGO: No electronic distribution, Web posting or street sales before WEDNESDAY 3:01 A.M. ET, Feb. 28, 2024. No exceptions for any reasons. EMBARGO set by source. FILE — An AR-15 style firearm at Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton, Va., Feb. 25, 2018. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments about a bump stock ban, a Trump administration rule put in place after the Las Vegas massacre. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Editorial: U.S. Supreme Court ‘ducks’ reason on bump stocks

The majority defies common sense and ignores potential violence to rule against a regulatory agency.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, June 18

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Father's Day is a holiday of honouring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society.
Editorial: Men, boys could use a little help to be better men

The work of fathers could be aided by a state commission focused on the issues of boys and men.

Paul: Warning on social media helps, but much more necessary

We know the harms social media causes children; Congress should take steps to better regulate it.

Goldberg: Trump movie not coming soon to a theater near you

A movie about Trump and his lawyer, Roy Cohn, can’t find a U.S. distributor. Take a guess why.

Trump speaks like a dictator; is that what we want?

Trump supporters had better start thinking seriously about life under dictatorship. The… Continue reading

Herald’s coverage of Pride events is appreciated

Thank you to Aina de Lapparent Alvarez for the informative, well-written article… Continue reading

The City of Everett is set to purchase two single sidewalk restrooms from Romtec, a company based in Roseburg, Ore., for $315,000. (Romtec)
Editorial: Utilitarian but sturdy restrooms should be a relief

Everett is placing four stalls downtown that should be accessible but less prone to problems.

Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled “33 Birds / Three Degrees” during the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each bird’s unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: For 50 years Schack Art Center there for creation

The art center is more art studio than museum, supporting artists and fostering creativity in kids.

Mangrove trees roots, Rhizophora mangle, above and below the water in the Caribbean sea, Panama, Central America
Editorial: Support local newspapers work to hometowns’ benefit

A writer compares them to mangrove trees, filtering toxins and providing support to their neighbors.

President Biden will wait until after election to pardon son

Sleepy Joe Biden will pardon his son, after he is reelected. But… Continue reading

Comment: Ruling on abortion pill access may be short-lived

Despite a unanimous decision upholding access to mifepristone, it left open avenues for challenge.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.