Signature gathering underway on minimum wage & paid sick leave initiative; proliferating regulations tax employers

Organizers have launched signature gathering for Initiative 1433. The initiative, promoted by Raise Up Washington

… raises Washington’s minimum wage to $13.50, and provides up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave per year. The wage increase is phased-in over four years, beginning at $11 (2017), $11.50 (2018), $12 (2019), and $13.50 (2020). The measure also allows workers to earn 1 hour paid sick leave for every forty hours worked…

The Daily News reports on Oregon’s minimum wage increase, sounding themes familiar to Washingtonians. 

This week Gov. Kate Brown signed a new law that will incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage from $9.25 to up to $14.25 in the greater Portland area by 2022. The wage will top off at $13.50 in mid-size counties like Columbia County and $12.50 in rural counties.

We previously wrote about the Oregon plan here. The Daily News article quotes business owners and employees, many of them concerned about the effects of the wage hike. Also, this:

Consumers will see an increase in prices as business owners attempt to offset the cost of paying workers higher wages, said Jamein Cunningham, assistant professor of economics at Portland State University. Businesses such as restaurants could be hurt most by the wage increase because demand is more likely to wane as prices rise, he said.

The effort is of a piece with national and regional attempts to reduce income inequality, although the evidence is aat best mixed. Compelling research has found that boosting the minimum wage is associated with long-lasting and negative effects on workers, particularly the unskilled and young. Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton, sympathetic to concerns with income inequality, writes, 

So as much as the debate about rising inequality dominates the Seattle public square, the city is not hermetically sealed from the world.

Seattle can make efforts on the margins — and hope it doesn’t kill the golden goose in the private sector. But most reforms and reconstructing the social contract must happen on a national scale.

With respect to the “golden goose,” Steve Gordon,  CEO of Gordon Trucking, provides a valuable perspective in a Seattle Times commentary. His op-ed responds to a proposal in Seattle to impose new regulations governing how businesses schedule employees, but the main theme applies to the minimum wage and sick leave initiatives as well. 

Complex issues face companies and employees alike here. Divisive rhetoric that profit-hungry corporations are arbitrarily taking advantage of employees isn’t accurate or helpful. We need healthy, motivated and engaged associates to provide the service that meets our expectations as consumers and drives healthy economic growth.

We need productive solutions more than further regulation.

Gordon’s piece is well worth your time. In our foundation report, we addressed the regulatory challenge. 

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…

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.

Over the next few months, we’ll hear much more about these issues. We offer a better solution. 

Our roadmap for expanding Washington’s culture of opportunity to individuals, families, employers, and communities in every corner of the state focuses on our three priorities: Achieve (education), Connect (transportation) and Employ (economic vitality). It provides the surest route to improving the lives and opportunities of Washingtonians throughout the state.