By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service
SEATTLE – Groups across the state are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would raise Washington’s minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020.
Initiative 1433 has support from Washington unions and education associations, and recently received endorsements from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Teresa Mosqueda, political and strategic campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, says small businesses would feel the benefits of workers who have more spending money.
“Once it’s fully phased in, we will see an infusion of $2.5 billion – that’s billion with a B – into local economies throughout Washington state, annually,” she points out.
Opponents to the measure are worried a wage hike would mean businesses would have to charge higher prices.
However, Mosqueda says studies of past minimum wage increases have shown no marked increases in costs as a result.
Washington’s current minimum wage $9.47 an hour.
The proposal also would allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid leave, including leave to care for spouses and immediate family members.
Mosqueda says the provision is important to the more than 1 million Washington workers who don’t have any paid leave available to them.
“It’s about whether or not you have the ability to take a day off of work because you’re sick or your child is sick without fear of losing your job, or without the consequence of not having a day’s wage paid,” she stresses.
Paid sick leave laws are on the books in five other states, including Oregon and California.
The initiative needs around 250,000 signatures by July to qualify for the ballot.