Leaders push to up minimum wage in parts of King County to $19 per hour

Sep 7, 2023, 11:25 PM

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay on Thursday announced legislation that would create a minimum wage of $18.99 per hour for unincorporated King County, his office said in a press release.

Workers in unincorporated King County are always left out of policies that increase the minimum wage in neighboring cities,” Zahilay said in a prepared statement. “That means someone working in Skyway could be paid several dollars less per hour than if they went a block north to Seattle or a block west to Tukwila. That’s not right.

“If passed, our proposal to increase the minimum wage in unincorporated King County would be a big step toward investing in the workers and economy of every corner of our region,” Zahilay’s statement continues.

National coverage: Push in states for $20 minimum wage as inflation persists

Zahilay is just one local leader pushing to increase unincorporated King County’s minimum.

The coalition is being led bay Zahilay, County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Joe McDermott and a handful of local businesses.

Dembowski said he was proud to co-sponsor the ordinance.

“Raising the minimum wage in unincorporated King County to match nearby cities is good policy and the right thing to do for King County workers,” Dembowski said in a press release.

Kohl-Welles said a policy like this “would have made a real difference” for her family, which includes her and her five kids.

“More money in hand can mean survival for many, to stabilize and plan for the future and avoid having to take on additional work,” Kohl-Welles said as part of a statement. “To have more time with family and friends which can lead to healthier, safer communities. But it also can mean more spending in the local economy.”

Currently, King County’s minimum wage is aligned with the state’s $15.74 an hour benchmark. This proposal would bump that number up to $18.99 across the county’s unincorporated areas for businesses with over 500 employees. If approved, the minimum wage would take effect Jan. 1, 2024. It would then increase yearly “to reflect the rate of inflation.”

Exceptions would also be made for smaller businesses. Employers with 15 or less workers and an annual gross revenue under $2 million would be subject to a minimum wage $3 under the county mark for any given year.

Starting in 2024, that $3 reduction would decrease by 50 cents per year until it reaches zero. Anyone with between 15 and 499 employees would be set at the county mark minus $2, with that reduction cutting by $1 yearly.

$32 per hour: Tacoma Housing Authority creates new minimum wage

This comes amid recent pushes in cities across the county to increase their own minimum wage. Last year, Tukwila voters approved an $18.99 an hour rate for large employers. Seattle’s minimum wage currently sits at $18.69 an hour, while SeaTac’s is $19.06.

In a fact sheet laying out the King County proposal, councilmembers, including Zahilay in his press statement, cite a recent study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which found that workers making the state minimum wage “would have to work 103 hours each week to afford a modest one bedroom rental home at fair market rent in King County.”

Unincorporated areas of King County include White Center, parts of the southeast, Maple Valley, and the Snoqualmie Valley among others.

Contributing: Steve Coogan; KIRO 7

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