To raise minimum wage or not is key ballot question

MARYSVILLE - Initiative 1433 would raise the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 over four years and require sick leave starting in 2018, actions supporters say would bring a more- livable wage for the lowest-paid workers.

MARYSVILLE – Initiative 1433 would raise the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 over four years and require sick leave starting in 2018.

Opponents say increasing wages would hit businesses in their pocketbooks. The minimum wage measure is one of the initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“It’s a straightforward and simple proposal to lift up Washington families, boost our economy and protect our community,” said Carlo Caldirola-Davis, campaign manager for Raise Up Washington.

Not so fast, countered Bob Battles, director of Governmental Affairs on Workers Comp and Unemployment Insurance representing the Association of Washington Businesses.

“This initiative is unprecedented” for the impact it will have on businesses, from mom and pop stores to large corporations, Battles said at a recent Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce debate.

Battles disagreed with supporters who suggested that there have not been negative impacts from raising minimum wage laws adopted by cities, or as far back as the 1998 bump in Washington’s hourly minimum wage.

He cited a few examples. The cities of Seattle and Seatac have their own minimum-wage laws. In Seatac many restaurants have downgraded to grab-and-go type eateries, resulting in job losses. Also, a Seattle company, Cascade Design, a global manufacturer that mostly does business with Switzerland, has opted to move to Nevada.

Battles also pointed to a survey of Seattle businesses that were asked how they would respond when the city adopted its minimum-wage law. In all, 62 percent said they would raise prices, 30 percent said they would add a service charge or fees, 30 percent said they would reduce the number of employees, and 11 percent said they would leave.

Caldirola-Davis called attention to results from a University of Washington analysis to examine the impact of the minimum-wage increase so far in Seattle. “They found more jobs created, workers making more, more businesses opened, and workers are getting more hours,” he said. “The sky doesn’t fall.”

Caldirola-Davis said the gradual increases over the next four years would boost the wages of more than 730,000 workers in Washington, and put an average $600 more a month into their pockets. He added that as a result of the increase in purchasing power, the initiative would add $2.5 billion more into local economies.

Battles said from an economic standpoint, it’s a zero net gain. When everybody’s labor costs rise, the products being produced go up, too, and that results in higher prices.

The initiative also mandates paid sick leave.

“No worker should have to choose between going to work sick, or missing a paycheck,” Caldirola-Davis said. Battles countered that, too, would hurt the smallest businesses.

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