A day before writing this, election officials for the Washington town of SeaTac said the vote to raise the locale’s minimum wage to $15 an hour passed a recount done by hand at the behest of opponents.
The margin of victory was razor-thin with only 70-some votes. And the cause for celebration was short-lived since both the yeas and the nays were scheduled to begin a court challenge three days later.
As you may have guessed, the pay raise will largely go, in part, to airport workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. And while it’s no doubt an increase in pay, Washington already has the country’s highest state-mandated hourly minimum wage of $9.19.
ONE THING’S CERTAIN
We don’t expect to argue within the confines of this word count whether it’s about time workers got a break or whether workers will be out of jobs.
But one thing we may all agree on is that states and local governments will be doing more of this type of activism in the new year.
Although there may be some inkling of support to raise the federal minimum wage, the odds of passage can’t be high.
And with unemployment high, interest rates low and a whole new generation of people who have never even heard the word “inflation,” employers face no pressure whatsoever to increase wages, minimum or otherwise.
So that leaves a town like SeaTac, WA, pop. 27,000, at the forefront of social change like it or not.
A couple of states down, California will raise the minimum wage to $10 by 2016. San Francisco’s minimum wage will go up to $10.55 on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Washington, D.C. city council is currently debating raising its minimum wage to $11.50.
Trust us, we’ve bookmarked plenty of other stories like this all over the country since we first learned that there even was a town called SeaTac.
Here’s another thing to count on: Don’t be surprised to hear an old tried-and-true political phrase used in a very different way to sell an increase – economic stimulus.
Past a certain point, a forced wage increase no doubt does kill jobs. But how much is that “certain point?” Could it be the $6-an-hour difference a minimum-wage job now pays at SeaTac (the airport) before the November vote by SeaTac (the city)? I don’t know, but go ask the guy who just got a 66 percent pay raise how he feels about the issue.
So rather than job-killer, raising the minimum wage might be viewed as the latest way to increase consumer spending by putting more money into people’s pockets.
After all, proponents will point out that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 has been falling in real terms for years now. In today’s dollars the wage would be at $10.60 in 1968. Or to put that the other way, it would be about $17 today.
That’s a long time ago and a big difference between the two.