There is a push from labor advocates to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for some 6,300 jobs in the City of SeaTac, a suburb of Seattle. The issue will be a ballot initiative on Election Day, November 5, which has tied the issue to Seattle’s mayoral race. The incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn told that Associated Press that, if elected, he would even consider supporting a push for an even higher minimum wage. At $9.19 per hour, Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the country, almost two dollars more than the federal minimum which is set at $7.25 per hour.
Ed Murray, McGinn’s challenger in the mayoral race, also supports the SeaTac initiative, but suggests “a phased-in approach.” Both candidates suggest they will support a legislative change to Seattle’s minimum wage rather than another ballot initiative. Critics of the plan suggest that perhaps instead of adjusting the minimum wage as a way to close the increasing wealth gap in the United States, that more money should be invested in education instead.
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Lynne Varner of The Seattle Times says that raising the minimum wage would not address the “wage depression for millions of workers and a yawning gap between the skills workers possess and the ones they need to have a shot at a good-paying job.” In his State of the Union address, “President Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage” to nine dollars per hour, with automatic adjustments for inflation.
Nationally, however the idea carries political risks from a business community already feeling hit hard by the Affordable Care Act and slow economic recovery. However studies have shown that wage increases can make employees more honest and less likely to steal from employers.