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Bills introduced in both houses of the Washington State Legislature would increase that state’s minimum hourly wage from the current $9.47 to $12 over the next four years — and mandate paid sick days.
“Income inequality is as bad as it has been since my grandmother was a small girl in 1929,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, a cosponsor of the minimum wage bill in the State House of Representatives. “We know that we can do better than that.”
Supporters of the minimum wage increase argue it will boost consumer spending, promote economic growth and reduce dependency on state services by those earning too little.
Though primarily a Democratic initiative, some Republicans in Olympia also have thrown their support behind the measure. However, most Republicans and some advocacy groups have voiced opposition. The Washington Farm Bureau warned that an increase in the state’s minimum wage would put agricultural employers at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in other states and abroad. Other opponents point to the fact that Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the country.
The city of Seattle earlier approved a minimum wage increase of $15 per hour.
While the proposed sick leave bill would exempt organizations with fewer than five workers, all other employees would be permitted to accrue paid sick days much as they would vacation time.
Both measures may face a steep battle in the Republican-controlled state senate.
Kirk Rafdal, J.D., is a staff writer for SHRM.
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