KIRO NEWSRADIO

Renton minimum wage initiative to go before the voters

Dec 5, 2023, 8:33 AM | Updated: 11:28 am

Fast food workers...

Minimum wage workers in Renton may soon be getting a raise. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Minimum wage workers in Renton may get a raise soon, but it is the voters who will decide.

The initiative to increase the city’s minimum wage to about $19 an hour for most employees will go on the ballot in February.

The Renton City Council had the option of approving the wage increase immediately, but decided not to do so during a meeting Monday night.

How Renton got here

The city currently mandates employers pay at least the statewide minimum of $15.74 an hour to workers.

But a long signature drive for an initiative to increase that to $19 an hour recently was certified by King County Elections.

Guillermo Zazueta, Chair of Raise the Wage Renton PAC led the campaign.

“We launched our campaign in January of this year, and just recently qualified for the Feb. 2024 Special Election.”

Related news: Minimum wage in Seattle to go up more than 6%

The PAC had originally hoped to qualify for this year’s November general election, but because a significant number of signatures were rejected, it did not make it onto the ballot.

Raise the Wage re-submitted the signatures in August.

On Monday, the initiative was certified with about 500 signatures over the required amount of 8,913.

Now, the Renton City Council has 20 days to either submit the proposed ordinance as a ballot measure for the February election, or, they can pass the ordinance outright with four votes or higher.

The council discussed raising the minimum wage at its meeting Monday.

If it’s approved by the council or the voters, Renton’s largest employers of 500 workers or more, will have until July 1 to implement the higher wage.

The wage increase is a tiered system.

“If you have a business with 15 employees or less, you are completely exempt from this ordinance,”  Zazueta said. “We wrote that specifically to speak to small and micro-businesses in the region, to let them know we are taking their consideration.”

For businesses between 15 and 500 employees, the new wage will be implemented in 2026, with an average of about a dollar-an-hour raise each year until the $19 rate is met.

Zazueta says they really designed the initiative for the minimum wage workers at the largest companies.

“The majority of minimum wage workers in Renton work for large chains. They are fast-food workers, department store workers, grocery store workers, and largely non-union positions. And, most are elderly and youth, and do need this raise.”

Zazueta calls the higher wage the “release valve” lower-income workers need to earn a few extra dollars to get by.

You can find the link at Rase The Wage Renton.

Editors’ note: This story initially was published in November 2023 and has been updated multiple times since then, including on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

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