Voters in SeaTac, Washington will get a chance in November to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Earlier this week, the SeaTac city council unanimously approved a measure to place the Good Jobs Initiative up for a public vote in next fall’s elections.
The Good Jobs Initiative, if approved, would do two things: raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and give workers one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
Many of the city’s workers are employed at and around the SeaTac airport, one of the biggest international airports on the West coast. The initiative was pushed through because many say the current minimum wage of $9.45 an hour isn’t enough to cover basic expenses.
"Should we actually be making something that's more a livable wage rather than just to have a roof over our head?" said Chris Smith, a worker at SeaTac airport.
The raise would give SeaTac workers a similar wage to ones earned by their counterparts at other major West coast airports. According to Puget Sound Sage, a nonprofit community and labor organization, workers at Los Angeles International Airport have a minimum wage of $15.73 an hour, while workers at San Jose International make a minimum of $14.71 an hour.
The initiative is being opposed by Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association. The companies unsuccessfully filed a motion to block the initiative before it was approved on Tuesday.
Mark Thoma, an economics professor at the University of Oregon, says the initiative reflects dissatisfaction with the fact that corporate profit margins are surging while wage levels remain unchanged.
“We’re seeing corporate profits and bank deposits pile up. But at the lower end, we’ve seen stagnant wages for the last 20 or 30 years,” Thoma said. “People are starting to ask, ‘Is there a fair distribution between profits and wages?’”