The minimum wage war is being fought in many cities across the country; on January 1, 2016 the war launched in Seattle, Washington. At the top of the year minimum wage increased between $11-$13/hour varying on the size of the employer. The system consists of two tiers; companies are grouped by numbers to include more than 500 employees or less than 500 employees. According to the schedule of wage chart proposed by Mayor Ed Murray; once $15/hour minimum wage is reached employees will be able to receive maximum health benefits. Seattle’s minimum wage will surpass the entire state of Washington by more than a dollar, bringing great relief to the people of the city. Several questions still remain, “Will this wage increase meet the basic needs (rent, utilities, child care, etc) of the average worker?” Also, “How will the wage ordinance be enforced and what industries are affected by this ordinance?”
Seattle consistently ranks as one of the top ten most expensive cities to live in the United States. The average one-bedroom apartment in Seattle costs around $1,634 per month, and a two-bedroom costs about $2,073 per month. Child care and utilities run between $1000 and $1250 per month. The city is working hard create an atmosphere where all social classes can live within the city. The wage increases impact all demographics of the city, especially the traditionally underserved minority communities. The system is complicated and will take it will take time to work out all the kinks. To help make the transition smoother the city has partnered with groups such as the NAACP to help enforce the ordinance. If workers have questions or need to file a violation, then the NAACP can advise them of what to do if their rights have been violated.
The Department of Finance and Administrative Services in conjunction with the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is responsible for administering and enforcing the Minimum Wage Ordinance on April 1, 2015. This makes Seattle unique and progressive as one of the country’s only cities that has enforcement behind its labor laws. During the first year the OLS will obtain full payment of worker wages and help employers comply with ordinance requirements. Penalties will be withheld except for repeated or egregious violations. Industries most affected by the ordinance are fast food, retail, entertainment, and transportation. The workers in these industries work long and hard hours for less than minimum pay. Most are not given full time status and so they are uninsured or under insured.
Employers must provide employees with the notices of their rights under the Ordinance in English, Spanish or any other language commonly spoken in the workplace. Employers must keep all payroll records for three years. An employer cannot retaliate against and employee for:
*Requesting to paid minimum wage
*Filling a complaint with OLS concerning a potential minimum wage violation
*Telling a person about a potential violation or about their rights
Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance applies to employees working in Seattle, regardless of the employee immigration status.