$15 minimum: Is it working?

$15 minimum: Is it working?

David Cubine

Last year, workers in SeaTac, WA seemingly won a hard fought battle for a higher minimum wage. Passing by less than 1%, the lowest paid workers in SeaTac now make $15 an hour.

At least, that’s how it was supposed to work. The $15 wage currently only applies to travel and hospitality workers in SeaTac. To be fair, that’s a huge portion of the work force there considering the city is home to Washington’s largest airport. But there’s another catch: The wage increase doesn’t include small firms, union members or airlines. And there’s yet another catch: Right before the wage increase took effect, a Washington judge further narrowed the beneficiaries of the wage increase by decreeing that airport workers are also ineligible for the $15 per hour wage because the airport is operated by the Port of Seattle. That’s almost five thousand people cut out of the deal, leaving only sixteen hundred workers benefiting from the increase.

What originally looked like a huge change for the city of 27,000 is starting to seem less significant, but the fact remains that a significant portion of minimum wage workers in the city have received a huge income boost. Has this led to the death of business, riots in the streets, mass extinctions?

No. It’s still difficult to gauge the impact of the raise as it’s only been in effect for 5 months, but anecdotal evidence has so far indicated that the increased wages haven’t had a huge effect on the local economy beyond small additional charges for services like parking. Not enough time has passed to make grand statements about the new state of SeaTac’s economy, and the small scope of those receiving the increase makes it difficult to predict what could happen with a larger-scale minimum wage increase, but the consensus for now is that things are doing just fine.

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