This morning in Olympia, workers and labor advocates filed an initiative to raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 an hour. The increase would happen through a phase-in over four years and also give all workers who don't currently have sick leave an hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, or about seven days a year.
Washington state's minimum wage is currently $9.47. The initiative would incrementally raise that to $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020.
Ariana Davis, the Auburn grocery worker who officially filed the initiative, said in a statement: "Passing paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage would change my life and the lives of thousands of workers like me. It would make us healthier and more able to take care of our families and customers.”
Supporters—calling their campaign "Raise Up Washington"—will now have until July 8 to submit about 246,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
In Olympia, where the legislative sessions started today, Democratic state lawmakers are expected to re-introduce a bill that failed last year to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour. Republicans are expected to again try to block that effort. Today's bolder ballot measure could increase pressure on lawmakers to pass $12.
Republican Rep. Drew MacEwen, meanwhile, has introduced a bill to allow for lower wages for people younger than 18 and "total compensation," meaning employers could count healthcare and other benefits toward the minimum wage. (Getting a vague sense of déjà vu from the phrase "total compensation"? Here, here, and here is why.)