As minimum wage increase takes effect, some employers and employees see cause for concern

The new year brought a higher minimum wage across Washington. The Everett Herald reports,

On Jan. 1, Washington’s minimum wage will rise to $13.50 an hour, a nice bump from the current mark of $12 an hour.

It will be the highest of any state and close the gap on the District of Columbia where the hourly rate is $14. By comparison, the federal minimum wage will be $7.25 an hour.

That’s not all. The News Tribune editorial board writes

Tacoma led the way by gradually raising its wage floor after a 2015 voter-approved measure; 2020 marks the first year the statewide rate will surpass (and replace) Tacoma’s.

Seattle’s wage remains one of the highest in the country, but it also has employers with deep pockets. Large employers pay $16 per hour, all others $15. Seattle absorbed the wage hike well, but the same might not be said for rural areas.

In Spokane, the Spokesman-Review reports, some are concerned.

While Payne sees positives in a more livable minimum wage, she’s worried employers might pass the buck (or in this case, the $1.50) to the most vulnerable and that people like her – people who suffer from a chronic illness – could fall through the cracks…

Payne is worried that, due to significant accommodations her employer provides, the raise will decrease her hours. Payne has a spinal auto immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis.

Reduced hours are a common response to sharp increases in the minimum wage. The Spokesman-Review adds,

Cara Coon, Greater Spokane Inc. communications and public affairs vice president, said she hasn’t had a conversation with her members about the 2020 change as of yet, but the organization is always concerned about the health of the Spokane business community.

“This is the third year in a row that wages have gone up, and I think the business community is by and large getting used to the raise, but I think it’s still impactful,” Coon said.

That concern is shared in the Tri-Cities.

Washington state has approved a minimum wage increase for employees to $13.50 an hour. For an employee, it means more money. For business owners, it’s worrisome.

Amanda Divine owns Adventures Underground and Caterpillar Cafe in Richland at the Uptown. They’ve been in business for more than 10 years. With 21 employees between the two, Divine says it’s going to be a difficult road with the increase.

“We can buy fewer items, but then we have fewer items to sell,” Divine said. “We can reduce staffing a little bit, like how many hours we can schedule people for.”

As The News Tribune editorial points out, not all communities – or, for that matter, all industries – are equally equipped to absorb the wage hike.