Legislature considers minimum wage, paid sick leave; business groups voice concern

Tuesday the Tacoma City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance, which will go into effect in February 2016. The cities of SeaTac and Seattle have previously passed paid sick and safe leave ordinance, by initiative and council vote respectively. In Olympia, the House Labor Committee is considering a similar statewide measure:

Under House Bill 1356, employers with more than four full-time or equivalent employees would be required to grant paid sick leave to employees for medical reasons involving themselves or family members.

Additionally, the bill would require employers to grant safe leave for employees who are at threat of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, or in times when their workplaces or children’s schools have been closed for public health concerns.

The House committee also is considering a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, generating concerns from affected employers.
Representatives of grocery stores, restaurants and farms told the House Labor Committee they would lose customers if they raised their rates or prices to pay higher wages.
Others argued the proposal didn’t go far enough. (Another bill has been introduced to require triple pay for working on Thanksgiving.)
In our online research report, Opportunity Washington considered the effects of state and local measures to set employment policies.
In terms of wage and benefit policies, Washington has long had the nation’s highest statewide minimum wage. That has now been exceeded in multiple jurisdictions as local governments have adopted their own wage and benefit laws…
Research is mixed on the effects of incremental increases in the minimum wage,101 but large increases are clearly associated with declining job opportunities for the young and unskilled. 
We urge a focus on policies that encourage job creation and provide increased opportunities.
Washington employers and residents alike place a high priority on the equitable compensation and protection of those in the workforce. Policymakers must carefully consider wage and benefits mandates and system to ensure that such protection are maintained in a cost-effective manner so that employers can create more job opportunities for Washington citizens.