Tukwila ballot initiative would establish $19/hour minimum wage

Nov 1, 2022, 7:31 PM | Updated: 8:20 pm


Tukwila entrance sign

Tukwila could soon have one of the highest minimum wages in the nation.

City of Tukwila Initiative Measure No. 1, appearing on Tukwila residents’ ballots in next week’s election, would raise the wage for workers at large Tukwila employers to about $19 per hour, beginning next summer.

“That is approximately the same as the minimum wage next year will be in both Sea-Tac and Seattle,” said Katie Wilson, general secretary of the Transit Riders Union, which spearheaded the initiative. “We’re trying to raise Tukwila up to match those neighboring cities.”

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Our state’s current minimum wage is about $14.50 per hour, but both Seattle and Sea-Tac have enacted higher minimum wages than that — which attracts workers from neighboring cities.

“Tukwila is kind of sandwiched between Seattle and Sea-Tac,” Wilson said. “So you have a lot of people who live in Tukwila, but they will commute to the airport or up to Seattle because the pay is better, because the minimum wage is higher.”

Wilson said, especially with inflation, $14.50 per hour is not enough money for workers in Tukwila to meet their basic needs.

“They’re just having a really hard time paying the bills, making rent, and supporting their children,” Wilson said. “And so the idea here is really to raise up the poor, so even the lowest-paid jobs should be enough to live on.”

The $19 wage, if passed, would be among the highest in the United States.

“It is a big improvement, so we think this is something that will make a huge difference in people’s lives,” Wilson said.

If the initiative is successful next week, it would go into effect for employers with more than employees next July. Medium-sized employers — with 15 to 500 workers — would get a little longer to get used to the higher wage, with a phased-in approach through 2025.

The smallest businesses — those mom-and-pops with fewer than 15 workers — would be exempt altogether.

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“There are a lot of very small, immigrant-owned small businesses in Tukwila. We didn’t want to have any adverse impacts, so we felt it made sense to do an exemption for the very smallest,” Wilson said, continuing, “That really came out of conversations with workers, with residents, and with local small businesses. The very small businesses are not the problem with why so many people are getting paid low wages.”

No statement opposing the initiative has been submitted to King County Elections.

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Tukwila ballot initiative would establish $19/hour minimum wage