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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: minimum wage

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June 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM

What was your first minimum wage job? These were ours.

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Seattle has made history with this week’s approval of a $15 minimum wage schedule, phased in over a few years with different schedules for different sized businesses. The world, judging from from this editorial in the Oregonian and this blog in The Guardian,  is either marveling or criticizing the audacity of the action.

The interesting thing about the Seattle minimum-wage debate is that it became a debate about a livable wage. The value underpinning the proposal is that a worker should be able to support themselves independently on the minimum wage.

That prompted an interesting conversation among our Opinion department staff members about our first jobs. None of us stayed in those jobs, using education to advance our careers, but all were useful helping to pay for college or educational travel. Here are our first jobs. What was yours? Please tell us in the comment section.

Frank Blethen, publisher: Grocery bag boy at Bashas Family Grocery  in Arizona for 95 cents an hour. We had to endure

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Comments | Topics: Erik Smith, first jobs, Frank Blethen

May 7, 2014 at 6:25 AM

The big exemption in Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage proposal

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces a $15 minimum wage plan. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces a $15 minimum wage plan. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m., 5/8/14: Five months into the Seattle $15 minimum-wage debate, the potential ripple effects are still being discerned. On Wednesday, nonprofit human-services providers described the complications — and benefits — of a higher wage at a Seattle City Council meeting. Nonprofit leaders lamented the industry’s low pay scale, and praised the potential for a higher wage to lift their own workers out of near-poverty.

But for the nonprofits to pay for higher wages with cuts services, other governments — particularly the state — would have to pay part of bill. Getting a Legislature consumed with boosting education spending to pay for Seattle’s radical wage experiment would be a very hard political “lift,” as they say in Olympia.

To tease out other potential consequences and benefits, join The Seattle Times opinion section next Wednesday, May 14, at noon, for a Google Hangout discussion on the minimum wage. We’ll have a variety of perspectives for a live conversation, hosted by Seattle Times opinion writer Thanh Tan. Join us.

ORIGINAL POST: When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proudly stated last week that his minimum wage proposal has “no exemptions,” he apparently exempted one big group: other public sector workers.

Murray’s spokesman, Jeff Reading, said the proposed $15 minimum wage legislation being sent to the City Council would exclude other “governmental entities.”

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Comments | Topics: ed murray, minimum wage

April 3, 2014 at 6:42 AM

$15 makes Seattle outlier compared with other cities that raised minimum wage

Nine city or county governments across the country have increased their minimum wage. A University of California, Berkeley study commissioned by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s income inequality committee concludes that a higher wage floor can increase productivity and reduce turnover, cushioning the macro-economic cost. Based on studies, it suggested companies could “adjust to higher…

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Comments | Topics: business, economy, minimum wage

March 28, 2014 at 6:25 AM

The ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ of a Seattle $15 minimum wage law on tipping

Washington is one of just seven states that does not allow a lower wage for tipped workers; if you give a tip, it’s on top of a wage that is at least $9.32 an hour. It’s a settled issue. The federal minimum tip wage is an appalling $2.13 an hour, meaning that waitress in Idaho who calls you “hon” really needs that 20 percent tip.

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray's minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

But the $15 minimum wage issue is re-stirring debate over whether it should come with a lower tip wage, or some acknowledgement that “total compensation” of workers includes tips. A state food service industry wage survey shows only chefs and managers made more than $15 an hour (including tips), but my bartender friends say that ridiculously low-balls tips.

The last panel of Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Symposium Thursday at Seattle University offered an entertaining exchange on the pros and cons of a tip law.  Eric Pravitz, an earnest nail salon co-owner who supports a minimum wage which counts tips, sat next to Saru Jayaman, a charismatic restaurant industry advocate who denounces tip wage laws as a “draconian, sexist system.” It was very Seattle: they clearly thought each other nuts, but in a friendly way.

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Comments | Topics: minimum wage, Seattle

March 24, 2014 at 6:23 AM

How a higher minimum wage would affect nonprofit supported-living providers

In a Sunday guest column, Sylvia Fuerstenberg wrote about how a higher minimum wage would affect a nonprofit like hers, which provides care for people and families with developmental disabilities. Fuerstenberg is the executive director of The Arc of King County. Her nonprofit receives funding from the state to provide a specific number…

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Comments | Topics: arc of king county, developmental disabilities, minimum wage

January 7, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Affordable housing in Seattle just as important as minimum wage

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray chose to make a $15 minimum wage for city employees the topic of his first official press conference last Friday, but he also reiterated that increasing wages alone won’t fix the city’s affordability problem.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Murray said education and housing are two other issues that must be dealt with if Seattle is to remain a place where people from diverse backgrounds and income levels can work and live.

He’s right. For now, let’s single out the housing part.

In case you missed it, The Seattle Times editorial pages featured a special section on affordable housing last month. Read those op-eds here. In November, our board called on city leaders to develop a coherent strategy to fix the housing shortage.

Since then, Seattle Times reporter Sanjay Bhatt reports rent increases may be stabilizing, but not by much. And most of the housing stock that’s available is out of reach for low and middle-wage workers. Remember, affordable housing generally means the cost of utilities and shelter should not exceed 30 percent of household income.

Here’s a link to the city’s wait list for subsidized housing, which is perennially long and can last years. Many lower-middle class workers don’t quality for assistance. Thousands more remain homeless, including hundreds of families with children.

If we know the city of Seattle needs more shelter and housing, how do we pay for it? New and existing developments rely heavily on federal funds, the Seattle Housing Levy (which is up for renewal in 2016) and the state’s Housing Trust Fund. The new mayor and City Council’s challenge is to develop policies that will stretch those limited dollars further.

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Comments | Topics: affordable housing, minimum wage, Seattle

December 6, 2013 at 2:02 PM

What state treasurer Jim McIntire’s study says about a $15 minimum wage

Jim McIntire, State Treasurer

James McIntire, State Treasurer

What is the likely effect of the rise in the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15, or some other increase? I was cleaning out my paper files preparatory to retirement, and under “Minimum Wage” was a study dated January 1991 from the University of Washington’s Northwest Policy Center. The principal investigator was James McIntire, who is now Washington state treasurer, the official responsible for floating state bond issues on Wall Street.

The study’s aim was to judge the effect of a 1968 state ballot measure that increased Washington’s minimum wage in two steps to $4.25 ($7.59 in today’s money) by January 1990. The effective minimum in Washington for most workers had been the federal minimum of $3.35.

This was a 27 percent increase over two years, which was fairly big, but less than half the 63 percent increase between the 2013 state minimum of $9.19 and the 2014 SeaTac minimum of $15.

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Comments | Topics: minimum wage

November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

South King County’s Road Map Project is a national anti-poverty model

Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs.  People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs. These points rest atop rigorous…

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Comments | Topics: children, Education, health care

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