Tacoma $15 minimum wage initiative qualifies for the November ballot

Tacoma voters will have at least on minimum wage proposal on the November ballot. The News Tribune reports

Pierce County auditor’s staff verified that petitions submitted by the 15 Now Tacoma group contained 3,231 valid signatures of registered Tacoma voters, surpassing the 3,160-signature requirement. Another 2,304 signatures were declared invalid for a variety of reasons.

Under the city charter, the City Council can approve Proposition 1 as written or forward it to voters. The council cannot modify the proposal.

The prospect of the initiative led the Tacoma City Council to establish a task force to consider an alternative. The $15 Now measure is more aggressive than the phased-in plan in place in Seattle.

According to the proposed 15 Now measure, businesses making gross revenues of $300,000 per year or more would have to pay a $15 minimum wage with no phase-in period or exceptions based on a business’s number of employees.

Although the article quotes initiative backers as saying they would consider withdrawing their measure if the Council-appointed task force offers an acceptable alternative, it’s not clear that they can do so under the law.
In our research report we wrote, 
In addition to the absolute costs of these [high local minimum wage laws], and the challenge they create in competing with other employers not subject to the same mandates, local governments’ wage and benefit regulations create compliance problems for employers operating in multiple jurisdictions. They also create difficulties as employers look to align their human resource policies among cities with different mandates.
The Tacoma measure appears likely to add to the proliferation of inconsistent local ordinances.
Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson’s observations on the recent Los Angeles minimum wage hike are relevant here. Reviewing the research, Samuelson points out that most of the studies cited by proponents who contend there are no negative employment impacts address relatively small increases in the wage. Little is known about the effects of jumps to the $15 level, but even supporters of wage hikes have concerns. Samuelson cites liberal writer Kevin Drum.

In a blog post, [Drum] speculated on possible job losses.

Most restaurants would be fairly safe, because people “need to eat in Los Angeles.” But higher wages would “increase the incentive for fast-food places to try to automate.” More vulnerable would be low-cost apparel manufacturers, where jobs might be wiped out or moved to surrounding counties… Hotels could “easily become less competitive for convention business and end up shedding jobs.”

Further, Samuelson notes,

…minimum-wage studies may miss long-term effects. These studies typically examine whether companies eliminate jobs soon after an increase in a state or local minimum wage. But what if the full effects are delayed?

We’re likely to find out. The NEETs will be the first to know.