A host of Democratic lawmakers and union members were on hand Thursday afternoon to introduce legislation raising the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour, as well as require paid sick-leave based on minimum standards.
The news conference announcing the introduction the new legislative push coincided with an announcement from President Barack Obama that he’ll be proposing a federal paid-sick leave program. Both issues stalled in the Legislature during last year’s session, and their future is still murky given the split of party control between the House and the Senate.
Success at increasing the minimum wage has been patchwork in Washington state since SeaTac passed an ordinance for a $15 minimum wage at the ballot box in November 2013. The Seattle City Council followed with its own $15 minimum wage last year, and organizers are preparing for a push to get a $15 minimum wage on the ballot in Tacoma this year.
It’s been an area of heavy focus from labor unions, both locally and at the national level, with a series of rallies held around the country, including in Olympia in December.
About two dozen lawmakers from the House and the Senate assembled Thursday the news conference; Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way was the only member of his party present. Miloscia, a former Democratic Representative, has been a longtime advocate of raising the minimum wage.
Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said minimum wage and paid sick leave cut across party lines.
“If you work hard you should get paid in a way that allows you to live your life with dignity,” said Jayapal, who made the minimum wage her first bill to co-sponsor.
You can read more about the debate over the minimum wage here:
- Budget & Policy Center brief
- Washington Policy Center offers this perspective
- National Federation of Independent Business looks at it on the national level
- And the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs examined its impact in Seattle
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