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Supreme Court hears $15 minimum wage case

OLYMPIA — The state's first $15 minimum wage should extend to SeaTac Airport because the higher wages don't  interfere with airport operations, attorneys for the City of Seatac told the state Supreme Court today. 

But an attorney for the airport argued the city has no authority to enforce the law approved at the ballot box by Seatac residents because the airport is governed by a separate entity, the Port of Seattle. . . 

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State Dems, in Spokane, call for rise in minimum wage

The Washington State Democratic Party on Saturday approved an 18-point party platform that will help guide the party for the next two years.

The party met for its biennial convention at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in downtown Spokane.

Jaxon Ravens, the state party chairman, said delegates approved all 18 planks proposed by the party’s platform committee “with minor amendments.”

Among items in the platform is a call to raise the minimum wage. But it isn’t as specific as what was adopted by the Seattle City Council earlier this month: a phased-in rise of the minimum wage to $15.

The state party’s minimum wage position is: “We support an incremental increase in the state and federal minimum wage, with a living wage as the goal.”

Dem candidates to lead raise-minimum-wage tour

Democratic candidates for office in Idaho, led by 2nd District congressional candidate Richard Stallings, Nels Mitchell, who’s running against GOP Sen. Jim Risch, and Bert Marley, who’s challenging Lt. Gov. Brad Little, will tour the southern half of the state next Tuesday in support of the Raise the Minimum Wage Campaign, with rallies in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls and Boise. Stallings’ campaign announced that the plan is to “draw a spotlight on the situation 29,000 Idahoans live with on a daily basis trying to live on $7.25 an hour.” There’s more info here.

Initiatives on medical marijuana, minimum wage fall far short of mark, won’t be on ballot

Yesterday was the deadline to turn in signatures to qualify initiatives for the November ballot, and Boise State Public Radio reports that neither measure that was being circulated made the mark, or even came close. The backers of the initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in only 559 signatures after a year of trying, BSPR reports, while those pushing for an increased minimum wage in Idaho had 8,301 qualified signatures at the deadline. Each needed 53,751 to qualify for the November ballot; you can read BSPR’s full report here.

Inslee: Minimum wage prospects not good in Lege

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said he wants a public conversation about raising the state's minimum wage but acknowledged today the chance an increase will pass the 2014 Legislature are not good.

“I can't be optimistic it's going to pass the state Senate this year,” he said during a telephone press conference from Washington, D.C., where he's attending the National Governors Conference. . . 

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Min wage wars: Up for all or down for teens?

OLYMPIA – The state’s minimum wage would go up for some workers and down for others under proposals moving through the Legislature this week.

It would go up to $12 an hour by 2017 for all hourly workers under a proposal approved Wednesday by the Democratic-controlled House Labor and Work Force Development Committee. It would be at least $15 an hour for school employees under a separate proposal the committee passed.

It would go down to as low as $7.25 an hour for teen-agers under a proposal approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. . . 

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Inslee: Do more hard things. GOP: Be more specific.

OLYMPIAWashington should raise its minimum wage, spend more on schools and highways, raise teacher salaries and do something about climate change, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

“We have done hard things. And we can do more,” the Democratic governor told a joint legislative session in his annual state of the state address.

Legislative Republicans and a Democrat who joined them to form the Senates ruling coalition were quick to criticize the speech as long on ideas but short on specifics. . . 

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Labrador to fast food workers: Get into management

During a conference call with reporters today, Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador was asked about minimum wage protests across the country among fast food workers. “I’m against raising the minimum wage,” Labrador said. He said minimum-wage jobs allow entry-level workers to “acquire the skills that are necessary, so they can move up … the job ladders. If you make it more difficult for people to hire them at minimum wage, it’s impossible for them … to gain the experience that they need so they can make more money in the future.”

He added, “I lived with this in my own life. … My mom worked at McDonalds at one point in her life. She decided she wanted to make more money, so she got into the management program at McDonalds. That’s how you move up the chain. … Every time she had a job she would start at the bottom, and she would work her way up into management. She was still not making a ton of money, but that’s how people get ahead in life.”

He predicted “an explosion of unemployment if we start raising the minimum wage.” Idaho has the highest percentage of minimum-wage workers in the nation, at 7.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national rate is 4.7 percent.

The state’s minimum wage matches the federal rate at $7.25 per hour; its minimum for tipped employees is $3.35 per hour. An initiative currently is circulating to raise Idaho’s minimum wage to $9.80 in phases over the next four years; last week, initiative backer Anne Nesse said about a tenth of the required signatures have been gathered to place the measure on the ballot, with about four months to go.

Today’s fun video: On fast-food wages


If you ever worked at a fast-food restaurant, you may get an even bigger laugh than  normal out of The Daily Show's take on the back and forth over proposals to raise the minimum wage for workers in that industry.

John Oliver's bit goes so long that it is broken into three parts on the web site, and this is the middle part that takes on the talking head TV gasbags talking about how minimum wage worker doesn't need raises because if he or she has any gumption, he or she will get better wages at better jobs, just like they did.

 To see the whole thing, click here.

Survey: McDonalds Can Pay More

McDonald's can afford to pay its workers a living wage without sacrificing any of its low menu prices, according to a new study provided to The Huffington Post by a University of Kansas researcher. Doubling the salaries and benefits of all McDonald's employees — from workers earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to CEO Donald Thompson, whose 2012 compensation totaled $8.75 million — would cause the price of a Big Mac to increase just 68 cents, from $3.99 to $4.67, University of Kansas research assistant Arnobio Morelix told HuffPost. In addition, every item on the Dollar Menu would go up by 17 cents/Huffington Post. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: I don't recommend doubling the wages of fast-food workers. But a wage half gain as much as the minimum federal wage wouldn't affect fast-food prices that much. I'd be willing to pay more for a burger. How about you?

Mary Lou: Idaho Keeps Its Poor Down

An old Frank Sinatra song puts the American Dream to music: “You could be better off than you are, you could be swinging on a star.” But stars to swing on are not in the skies of the 31,000 Idaho workers who eke out a living on jobs paying the $7.25-an-hour minimum wage here. At that rate, one employee working full time will only pull in $15,080 a year. The result is a borderline poverty-level existence and eligibility for food stamps — that is, if the U.S. Senate restores the food stamps that the House of Representatives just voted away. Idaho, along with several other states, raises the minimum wage only when Congress chooses to do so. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the first minimum wage in 1938, at a mere 25 cents an hour. The $7.25-an-hour rate, set by Congress in 2009, has rapidly become outdated/Mary Lou Reed, Inlander. More here.

Question: Do Idaho policies help/hurt poor?

Trib: Idaho’s Wage Slaves Need Raise

If ever a group ought to band together and demand a boost in the minimum wage, it is the wage slaves of Idaho. No state has a larger share of its workers earning the minimum wage than Idaho, where the rate of people pulling down $7.25 an hour is 7.7 percent. No state has come close to Idaho's 63.2 percent growth in the number of jobs paying the minimum wage. And even though Idaho has a relatively small population, it has more minimum-wage jobs - 31,000 - than 18 other states, including Washington (29,000), Nevada (23,000), Oregon (11,000), Wyoming (9,000) and Montana (4,000). So, meeting in Coeur d'Alene last weekend, activists kicked off an initiative campaign to replicate what Washington voters did about a decade ago - use the state law to boost the minimum wage. Washington now has the highest minimum wage at $9.19 an hour. If the Idaho plan were passed, the minimum wage would float to $9.80 an hour in four years, beginning with $8.10 an hour in 2015/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Does anyone out there dare say that $7.25 per hour is an appropriate minimum wage?

Initiative drive launched to raised Idaho’s minimum wage

Religious, education and community activists gathered over the weekend in Coeur d’Alene to kick off a voter initiative drive to raise Idaho’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour; a Catholic priest told the group the issue transcends politics. The initiative was filed in time to fall under Idaho’s current initiative laws – not the new law passed by lawmakers this year that makes it tougher to qualify an initiative measure for the ballot. That law takes effect July 1. You can read the full story here from S-R reporter Kip Hill.

Initiative To Target Minimum Wage

A nonpartisan group is kicking off an initiative drive to raise Idaho's minimum wage to $8.10 by Jan. 1, 2015, to $8.95 by Jan. 1, 2016, and more afterward. Idaho's current minimum wage is $7.25. Five speakers will launch the initiative drive during a rally from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8, at Riverstone Park. Speakers will be Father Roger LaChance, Anne Nesse, Patrick Lippert, Liz Moore, and Dr. Rolf Nesse. You can read the proposed initiative here.

Question: Would you sign a petition supporting an initiative like this?

Washington’s minimum wage to remain highest of any state at $9.19 an hour

The minimum wage in Washington will go up to $9.19 an hour on Jan. 1, keeping the state ahead of all others and nearly $2 above the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Idaho’s minimum wage will remain unchanged at $7.25 an hour, which is just over $15,000 a year for a full-time employee. It also falls within the federal definition of poverty for a two-person household.

The Washington wage, now $9.04, changes annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Voters in 1998 approved a ballot initiative that provides for the rate adjustments.

The wage bump will apply to an estimated 144,000 workers – many of them in retail, food service, hotel and health care jobs – providing them an extra $310 per year on average, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. Another 20,000 will see a raise as pay scales are adjusted upward, the Washington, D.C.-based group estimates.

Nine other states – Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Rhode Island and Vermont – also raise minimum wage rates on New Year’s Day.

Most of the new rates will remain under $8, including $7.80 in Montana. Vermont’s wage will increase to $8.60 and Oregon’s will go to $8.95 an hour.

On minimum wages and maximum salaries

OLYMPIA – While a House committee considered plans Tuesday to cut wages for some of the state's lowest-paid private workers, a Senate committee tried to emphasize the state doesn’t pay the salaries of its highest-paid public workers.

The House Labor Committee considered five different changes to the state's minimum wage law, which rises with inflation because of a 1998 ballot initiative and is now among the highest in the nation.
It’s so high that it hurts employment, training opportunities and profits, business groups told the committee. Cut the minimum wage and those workers will have less to spend in the economy, opponents of the bills said.

The Senate Higher Education Committee, meanwhile, aired out a bill that would prohibit by statute something that currently doesn't happen anyway: using state tax money to pay the salaries of coaches and other intercollegiate sports expenses at Washington State University and University of Washington.

“Everywhere I go, people are saying ‘I can’t believe the highest paid people for the state of Washington are football coaches,’ ” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. They’re often skeptical when she tells them that’s not state money; her bill would give current practice of using outside revenue to pay for intercollegiate expenses “the force of law.”…

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Washington Minimum Wage To Hit $9

Washington state’s minimum wage increases by 37 cents to $9.04 an hour starting on New Year’s Day. While the state’s current rate of $8.67 an hour is already the highest state minimum wage in the nation, a few cities, like San Francisco, have their own laws and have higher rates. San Francisco’s current rate of $9.92 jumps to $10.24 on Sunday, making it the first city in the nation to top a $10 minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Idaho’s minimum wage matches the federal wage, although employees who earn tips can be paid a wage as little as $3.35 per hour in Idaho. Washington is among a handful of states where the minimum wage will increase Sunday/Associated Press. More here.

Question: Is Washington's minimum wage going to be too high? Or Idaho's too low?

Montana, Oregon raising minimum wage Jan. 1

The minimum wage is scheduled to go up on New Years’ Day in Montana and Oregon.

The rate in Montana will increase 30 cents to $7.65 an hour. The The Economic Policy Institute says that means an extra $624 per year in wages for a full-time minimum wage worker.   

The increase comes as a result of an initiative Montana voters adopted in 2006 that established annual cost of living increases.

Oregon’s minimum wage goes up 30 cents on Jan. 1 to $8.80 an hour. It will mean a pay raise to nearly 145,000 workers in the state.

The annual inflation increase is the result of an initiative approved in 2002 by voters.  

No. 2 Oregon Hikes Minimum Wage

Oregon boasts the second highest minimum wage in the country. Washington state leads the nation with a 2011 minimum wage of $8.67 an hour. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries mandates a minimum wage increase from $8.40 an hour to $8.50 an hour for 2011. For a 40-hour work week, the 10-cent increase means about $4 more a week. That translates to about $16 a month and about $192 a year before taxes. Some say that increase is great for workers but can put some strain on businesses trying to keep up with payroll/Kelly Koopmans, KBOI. More here. (H/T: Orbusmax)

Question: Is the minimum wage in Oregon ($8.50) and Washington ($8.67) too high? Or is the Idaho minimum wage ($7.25) too low? Or both? What would be a perfect minimum wage?

Coming soon to Idaho: A $7.25 per hour minimum wage

Idaho’s minimum wage, currently $6.55 per hour, will rise to $7.25 per hour on July 24, as part of a three-step increase in the federal minimum wage approved by Congress in 2007. Idaho ties its minimum wage to the federal one, rather than setting its own; many of the surrounding states, including Washington, have much higher minimum wages.

Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said the three-year boost “has combined with the dampening effect of the national recession to actually give minimum wage workers a boost in buying power for the first time in over a decade.” Before the start of the three years of increases, Idaho’s minimum wage - since 1997 - had been $5.15 an hour. Today, that’s equal to $7.05 per hour - so the July increase will actually increase minimum-wage workers’ buying power above where it stood in 1997. About 40,000 Idaho workers will be affected by the July 24 pay hike, twice as many as were affected by the two earlier ones, to $5.85 in 2007 and to $6.55 in 2008.

Said Fick, “Communities along the Oregon and Washington borders are likely to feel the impact of this month’s wage increase the least, since Oregon’s minimum wage is $8.40 an hour and Washington’s is $8.55.” Nevada, with a minimum wage of $6.85 an hour, and Montana, at $6.90, will be affected by the increase, as will Utah, which, like Idaho, matches the federal minimum. Idaho sets a lower minimum for tipped employees, at $3.35 an hour, though employers must make up the difference if tips don’t bring those workers up to the minimum.


Washington’s minimum wage, the nation’s highest, rising to $8.55 in January…

It will be a happier new year, at least for some Washington workers.

Tomorrow, Washington’s minimum wage will rise to $8.55 an hour from $8.07, a full $2 an hour higher than in neighboring Idaho.

“Washington’s is still the highest, followed by Oregon, California and Massachusetts,” said Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Industries.

In Idaho, the minimum wage is the federal $6.55 an hour. That’s slated to rise to $7.25 in July.

Some Washington employers aren’t happy about the 48-cent-an-hour increase. The state’s restaurant association would prefer a lower training wage for 16-year-old workers, or a cap on minimum-wage increases during bad economic times.

“We want to pay fair wages, but we’re facing an industry crisis here,” said spokeswoman Camille St. Onge. Gov. Chris Gregoire and her supporters hammered Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi earlier this year for saying he would support a lower minimum wage for young employees.

Higher wages, St. Onge said, will put a greater squeeze on restaurants already struggling with thin profit margins as worried consumers eat out less. Consumers will likely see higher menu prices, she said.

Washington voters have repeatedly approved a higher state minimum wage, most recently with Initiative 688 in 1998. At the time, the state’s minimum wage was $4.90 an hour.

I-688 passed overwhelmingly, 66 percent to 34 percent. It linked the wage to the federal consumer price index for urban and clerical workers. The index is meant to measure the cost of goods and services needed for day-to-day living, Fischer said. The industries with the highest percentage of minimum-wage workers are food services, retail and agriculture.

Last year, Washington’s minimum wage rose 14 cents, or less than 2 percent. This year’s 48-cent increase is nearly 6 percent.

“As a 63-year-old, that sounds like a lot of money,” said Richard Reed, a retired flooring installer in Chattaroy. “But I know that the disparity between those at the bottom of the income ladder and those at the top has only gotten greater over the years in this country. So in that light, I think that they need it and deserve it.”

In Spokane, advocates for low-income workers are trying to set a local “living wage” for employees of large retailers in the city. The wage would be 130 percent of the state minimum wage, which would work out to about $11.12 an hour in January.

“We’re trying to do a little bit to end the cycle of poverty here,” said Shane Russell, with Spokane’s Peace and Justice Action League. Big-box retailers can afford to pay more, he said, and the impact on consumers would likely be small.

Proponents tried in 2007 to submit enough signatures to put the living-wage plan on a city ballot, but didn’t have enough valid signatures. They’ll try again in 2009, Russell said.