At a time when cities throughout Western Washington are raising or considering raising their minimum wage, legislation recently introduced by Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-35) would make it so that health benefits provided to an employee would count towards minimum wage. Tangentially related, a ballot initiative, proposed by Raise Up Washington, a coalition that includes the Washington State Labor Council and other “progressive” organizations, also would affect minimum wage in Washington State.
House Bill 2291 would make health benefits count towards minimum wage. The bill is being sponsored by Reps. Larry Haler (R-8), Vincent Buys (R-42) and Chad Magendanz (R-5) in addition to Rep. MacEwen. Aside from making health benefits count towards minimum wage, House Bill 2291 would not increase the minimum wage in Washington State, which is presently set at $9.47 and annually adjusted for inflation.
(Proposed) Ballot Initiative 1433 would raise Washington State minimum wage to $13.50. If passed, the increase would be gradual.
Starting in 2017, minimum wage would increase to $11.00 per hour. In 2018, minimum wage would increase to $11.50 per hour. In 2019, minimum wage would increase to $12.00 per hour. Finally, in 2020, minimum wage would increase to $13.50 per hour. Starting in September 2020, minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation. Present statewide exemptions from minimum wage for workers under the age of eighteen and individuals completing apprenticeships, messengers, and other categories of employees would continue. Furthermore, tips and/or gratuities would not count towards minimum wage.
Also included with Ballot Initiative 1433 are provisions that would require all employers to offer employees one paid hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, which assuming an employee works 40 hours a week for 48 weeks a year, amounts to six days per year. While it is not certain whether Ballot Initiative 1433 will pass, it seems likely that it will qualify for the ballot given the recent success that activists have had in raising the minimum wage in other Western Washington cities such as Tacoma, Seattle, and SeaTac.
House Bill 2291 and/or Initiative 1433 both would amend RCW 49.46.020. In the event that House Bill 2291 passed during the present legislative session and thereafter, Initiative 1433 passed in the November 2016 election, the language in Initiative 1433 would supersede the language proposed by House Bill 2291.