The news: The congressional battle over the minimum wage may continue on, but states are taking matters into their own hands. On Tuesday Hawaii joined Connecticut and Maryland to become the third state this year to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — the amount prescribed by congressional Democrats.
But it seems like one city is out to steal Hawaii's thunder: On Thursday, Seattle's Mayor Ed Murray unveiled plans to hike the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. That would not only be the highest minimum wage in the country, but one of the highest in the world, second only to Australia.
"Throughout this process, I've had two goals: to get Seattle's low-wage workers to $15 per hour while also supporting our employers, and to avoid a costly battle at the ballot box between competing initiatives," said Murray. "We have a deal that I believe accomplishes both goals."
The background: Washington state already boasts the highest minimum wage in the country, at $9.32 an hour. But that honor apparently was not enough for Seattle residents. The new bill was worked out during a 16-week committee session with labor leaders and business organizers; it still needs to be passed by the Seattle City Council to become law.
For those who are worried about how this might affect employment, the city is offering a phased plan to help business owners adjust their operations. Big businesses will have three years to adjust to the new minimum wage, and statewide implementation of the new law will take place by 2021. Once the $15 level is achieved, any further raises will be linked to cost-of-living increases.
Image Credit: The Seattle Times
Take that, Hawaii.
Why this is a good trend: With congressional debate over minimum wage turning into an ugly election-year showdown, for those who support higher pay, a state- or city-level approach might be best. Already 34 other states have introduced legislation for higher pay, with many attempting to adopt the $10.10 wage proposed by President Barack Obama.