KIRO NEWSRADIO

King County Council votes to increase minimum wage by 25%

May 14, 2024, 4:57 PM

Photo: The Metropolitan King County Council voted Tuesday to increase the minimum wage in unincorpo...

The Metropolitan King County Council voted Tuesday to increase the minimum wage in unincorporated King County by 25%. (Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

(Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

The Metropolitan King County Council voted Tuesday to increase the minimum wage in unincorporated King County by 25%, bringing it to $20.29 per hour. The vote was 7-2 with the conservative-leaning Council members Pete von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn voting no.

It does not include cities within the county that can set their own minimum wage.

Currently, the minimum wage in Washington State is $16.28 per hour. The $20.29 per hour wage affects businesses with 500 or more employees. Businesses employing 15-499 workers must pay a minimum wage of $18.29. Smaller businesses with fewer than 15 employees and annual gross revenues under $2 million must pay a minimum wage of $17.29.

The ordinance takes effect for businesses with 500 or more employees on Jan. 1, 2025. The remaining businesses must raise their minimum pay incrementally until 2030 when all businesses will pay the minimum wage with inflation adjustments.

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, there are about 4,100 businesses that would be affected by this new minimum wage.

Other news: Seattle passes contract with SPD amid concerns over lack of public comment

Critics echoed the common themes opponents of minimum wages have argued for years: businesses will pass the higher wage costs to consumers in higher product prices and small businesses will shut down.

Since the ordinance affects only unincorporated King County, critics argue businesses with competitors just down the road in a city with a lower minimum water will be at a disadvantage.

When Seattle passed its $15 minimum wage in 2013, it gave small businesses a seven-year phase-in period by factoring in total compensation. Currently, the minimum wage in Seattle is $19.97 an hour.

Jacob Andrew of Cascadia Pizza told council members an amendment sponsored by Council member Reagan Dunn that would base the minimum wage on total compensation — including wages, tips and costs of health care benefits — is needed to keep small businesses alive.

That amendment failed in a 6-2 vote.

An amendment that would limit the wage to urban areas of unincorporated areas of the county and not be imposed in rural forest land also failed on a 6-2 vote.

King County now joins Seattle, Tukwila, SeaTac and Renton in setting a minimum wage that goes above the state requirement.

Matt Markovich is an analyst and reporter who often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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