Minimum wage | KNKX

Minimum wage

Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds

This story originally aired on November 17, 2015.

Sports have such a powerful hold on our culture that lawmakers are often willing to take extraordinary steps to keep teams and fans happy. Even the U.S. Supreme Court exempted pro baseball from antitrust laws way back in 1922.

Here in Washington state, we have our own exception to the rule when it comes to sports.

State legislatures and city halls are battling over who gets to set the minimum wage, and increasingly, the states are winning.

After dozens of city and county governments voted to raise their local minimum wage ordinances in the last several years, states have been responding by passing laws requiring cities to abide by statewide minimums. So far, 27 states have passed such laws.

The Great Recession ended 7 1/2 years ago, and job gains have been steady since, but greater demand for workers is only starting to increase pay.

The increases are still relatively modest, and the data are still mixed. In October, for example, the Labor Department reported average hourly earnings increased at a 2.8 percent rate — the highest since mid-2009, but wage growth slowed in November. A separate report this month showed the cost of labor — another measure of wage growth — increased especially during the spring of this year.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Washington voters have approved a statewide hike of the state's minimum wage.

Initiative 1433 will raise the hourly wage by roughly $4 over three years, to $13.50. The measure also will require employers to provide paid sick leave — at least one hour for every 40 worked — that could be used to care for family members or as "safe leave" for those who miss work because of domestic violence.

Washington's current minimum age is $9.47 an hour.

Will James / knkx

Corrected on October 11, 2016 - An earlier version of this post said Washington has the nation's 42nd-highest unemployment rate. In fact, Washington has the eighth-highest.

An initiative on the ballot this election would set Washington state on the path to having one of the nation's highest minimum wages: $13.50 per hour. 

Few, if any, detractors have argued that Washington workers don't deserve a raise. But a debate has focused on whether a jump in the minimum wage would be wind drag or jet fuel for the state's uneven economy. 

The boats are owned by Americans. They fly American flags and work in American waters. The fish they catch — like premium ahi tuna and swordfish — is sold at American grocery stores, on shelves at Whole Foods and Costco.

But the men who catch those fish can't set foot on American soil, The Associated Press reports — and they aren't protected by American labor laws.

Washington voters will likely decide in November whether to raise the state minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave. Backers of the Raise Up Washington campaign say they will submit more than 360,000 signatures Wednesday -- virtually guaranteeing it a spot on the fall ballot.

Tens of thousands of Oregonians will get a raise Friday when the state's minimum wage goes up for the first time in 18 months.

Oregon employers have new guidance from the state on how much to pay their employees when the state's minimum wage goes up next month. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries released rules Wednesday meant to clear up one of the questions surrounding the legislatively-approved minimum wage hike.

Washington, D.C., will be the next major city to implement a $15 minimum wage rate following a unanimous vote Tuesday by its city council.

In a victory for local and national labor unions, Washington joins the ranks of cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle in raising wages for primarily lower-income workers in restaurants, retail and other service industries.

The District's current hourly minimum wage is $10.50, and it was scheduled to go up to $11.50 next month under a law enacted in 2014.

Lawmakers and labor unions in California have reached a deal to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The tentative agreement would end a lengthy dispute between California Gov. Jerry Brown and unions, Danielle Karson reports for NPR.

Under the new deal — which still needs to go before the state legislature — the minimum wage would increase gradually over the next six years.

The minimum wage in the state increased to $10 in January, under legislation passed in 2013.

One of the initiative campaigns to raise Oregon's minimum wage announced Monday that it's ending its signature-gathering efforts. But a separate campaign says it will keep trying to get an initiative on the November ballot.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

More than a dozen workers at Sea-Tac Airport have filed lawsuits claiming they are being unfairly denied the city of Seatac's current minimum wage of $15.24.  The baggage handlers, airplane cleaners, rental-car wranglers and others who work in support services at the airport say they are also owed two years of back pay.

Three states, three ways of addressing whether and how to raise the statewide minimum wage. In Oregon this coming Monday, the state House takes up a three-tiered wage increase that passed the state Senate last Thursday. In Washington state, activists are preparing to hit the streets for a statewide initiative. Meanwhile, Idaho lawmakers are mulling whether to block both a statewide and any possible local increases in the minimum wage.

A plan to hike Oregon's minimum wage is moving forward in the state legislature. The state Senate Thursday approved a measure that would increase the wage to as much as $14.75 per hour over the next six years.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle was the first big city to adopt a $15 minimum wage law, and now there’s new research on how that’s affected the prices we pay at stores and restaurants.

University of Washington researchers are doing a multi-year study to analyze economic impacts of the wage hike. They started tracking consumer prices last March, right before the first wage hike to $11 an hour.

A plan to hike Oregon's minimum wage is moving forward in the Oregon Legislature. A measure cleared a committee Friday and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor.

In Salem and Olympia, some lawmakers are looking for a middle way on raising the minimum wage. In both capitals, there's hope that a modest wage increase with business and labor support could head off or trump oncoming ballot measures.

SounderBruce / Flickr

Tacoma workers will be entitled to a minimum wage of $10.35 starting Feb. 1, up from the state’s current wage floor of $9.47. It’s the first of several hikes that will gradually phase in a $12 minimum wage approved by voters in November.  

photo courtesy of the Tri-City Americans

Amid all the hubbub in the legislature last session over school funding and transportation spending, lawmakers also passed a bill that, in effect, exempts Western Hockey League players from state child labor and minimum wage laws.

Shortly after that, the Department of Labor and Industries closed a lengthy investigation into the hockey league without taking any action, a move that is troubling to Mary Miller, who was a child labor specialist with the department for more than a decade before she left last year.

There’s a surprise newcomer to the campaign for a higher minimum wage in Washington. It’s the state’s restaurant association.

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Patrick Rodriguez via Wikimedia Commons

Tacoma voters have less than a month to decide whether to raise the city’s minimum wage, and if so, how much. Thursday evening, debaters at Pacific Lutheran University will give their best arguments in favor and against a $15 minimum wage.

Russel Sanders / Raise the Wage Oregon

Low-wage workers in Washington will find out later this week how much the state minimum wage will go up next year to account for inflation.

Meanwhile, Oregon voters could see competing minimum-wage initiatives on their 2016 ballot. A group that favors a hike to $13.50 per hour kicked off their signature gathering campaign Monday.

Eino Sierpe / Flickr

Washington businesses that want to have a role in shaping minimum wage policies will get a chance to talk strategy this week. The Association of Washington Business is holding its annual policy summit, with one panel devoted to the hot-button issue of minimum wage hikes. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

In a long anticipated decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled the $15-an-hour minimum wage law narrowly approved by voters in the city of SeaTac in fall 2013 applies at Sea-Tac International Airport.

The court's 5-4 decision means that about 4,700 workers ranging from restaurant employees to baggage handlers should now be paid $15.24 an hour.

I-5 Design and Manufacture / Flickr

Tacoma is ground zero for the state's next big minimum wage battle.

The city council voted 7-1 to put an initiative on the November ballot to hike the minimum wage in phases over the next three years, reaching $12 an hour in January 2018. After that, the minimum wage would rise every year at the rate of inflation.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Washington’s senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, is introducing a bill to phase in a $12-an-hour federal minimum wage by 2020, lifting the national wage floor up from the current $7.25. Her fellow Democrat, Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott, is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives.

The effort is another attempt by Democrats to raise pay for the nation’s lowest earners. Last year, Republicans blocked legislation supported by President Barack Obama that would have hiked the minimum wage to $10.10 over a period of three years. Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz have argued that lifting the minimum wage would lead to job losses.

Worker rights advocates say it’s great that Washington is considering raising the minimum wage and that several cities have already passed higher wage and paid sick leave laws.

But they say it’s important to make sure such measures are enforced. That’s why a union local is teaming up with the University of Washington School of Law.

With the passage of a complicated minimum wage law in Seattle, officials want to ensure the law is easily understood.  The mayor is proposing a new office called the Office of Labor Standards, that would serve as a clearinghouse for information and enforcement.

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