July 23, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 30


King County to start $15-per-hour minimum wage for its employees and contractors

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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The King County Council is preparing to give the county’s 12,000 employees and contracted workers a new minimum wage.

County Executive Dow Constantine submitted a proposal to extend Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage to county workers and people working for King County through contractors.

There would be exceptions: The proposed legislation applies only to employees working on contracts worth more than $100,000 and does not apply to contracts with other governments or to work funded through third-party grants.

It is unclear how many people would benefit. King County employees who work in Seattle will be covered by the minimum wage passed by the Seattle City Council June 2. The Seattle minimum wage will take effect April 1, 2015.

Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who proposed the county ordinance in February, said that the law could affect a lot of people, as it applies to anyone doing work for King County, whether they are located in the region or not. The law could apply to workers in Iowa if they are doing work under contract with the county, he said.

Dembowski estimated that there are at least 1,000 county contracts that would have to meet the requirement.

“It’s pretty substantial,” Dembowski said.

Dembowski said he hopes to have the legislation adopted by Labor Day, and it could take effect as soon as Jan. 1.

Because the county is following Seattle’s minimum wage proposal, wages will increase incrementally over several years. Employers with more than 500 employees will have to provide $15 an hour by 2017. Employers with fewer than 500 will have until 2021 if they provide health insurance to employees and 2019 if they don’t.

Following Seattle’s ordinance was easier than starting from scratch, said Nick Wagner of the King County Council’s central staff.

“This would avoid conflict with the Seattle minimum wage for employees who work in Seattle, and it would also reduce the administrative burden on county contractors, who would be able to focus on a single set of wage standards,” Wagner said at a council meeting July 15.

King County’s proposal comes on the heels of several minimum wage efforts around the region. Earlier this year, in the city of SeaTac, a union-backed campaign established a $15-an-hour minimum wage for hospitality workers that took effect Jan. 1. Washington’s Supreme Court will determine if the minimum wage law also applies to people working at Sea-Tac Airport, which is in the city of SeaTac but under the jurisdiction of the Port of Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced in January that he intends to establish a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The city estimates that there are approximately 860 city jobs that pay less than $15 an hour.

Across the nation, 125 jurisdictions have set living wage standards for government employees and contractors.



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