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Tacoma Voters Approve $12 Minimum Wage To Be Phased In By 2018

A city front with bridges and a large gray and white domed building flying an American flag on top, water and residential neighborhoods are in the background.
Patrick Rodriguez
CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
View of Tacoma, Washington from the McKinley neighborhood, November 6, 2012.

Early election results show that Tacoma voters appear to have rejected what would have been one of the most ambitious minimum wage hikes in the country, but they favor a more gradual hike that would phase in a $12 minimum wage by 2018, and link it to inflation after that.

Voters in Tacoma were asked if they wanted a minimum wage hike at all, and early results show more than 58 percent of voters support that. On the second question of how much to hike the wage, 71 percent of voters have opted to phase in a $12 minimum wage instead of an immediate $15 for most businesses. That option received just 29 percent of the votes.

Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce President Tom Pierson says it does not make sense for Tacoma to raise its minimum wage faster than booming cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. Those cities are phasing in $15 minimum wages over a period of years. Washington state’s minimum wage is $9.47.

“Our economy in Tacoma, as good as it’s doing, is not as good as Seattle, is not as good as San Francisco,” Pierson said.

Pierson says he would have preferred a statewide decision on a minimum wage increase instead of a city-by-city approach. But he says it is clear people in Tacoma are concerned about poverty and want to find ways to alleviate it. In Tacoma, 18 percent of people are below the poverty line, compared with 13 percent statewide.

Reaction From 15 Now Tacoma

Maximilian Hyland, one of the activists with 15 Now Tacoma which collected enough signatures to put the $15 minimum wage initiative on the ballot, did not seem too disappointed by the outcome.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted, but everything we got the Chamber of Commerce paid for and that is priceless,” he said.

The $15 minimum wage initiative lit a fire under city leaders to come up with an alternative. Mayor Marilyn Strickland formed a task force to look at options.

A majority of that task force recommended phasing in a $15 minimum wage by 2020 for large businesses and 2024 for small businesses, but Strickland put forward a version of a $12 minimum wage proposed by business owners on the committee. She said she wanted something simple and a bit less ambitious than the $15 option.

The Chamber of Commerce later endorsed that $12 minimum wage initiative, and the $12 for Tacoma campaign raised almost $100,000 from groups such as the Washington Restaurant Association and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

The 15 Now Tacoma campaign raised just over $8,300.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.