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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 2, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 05
Washington state is #2 in minimum wages
Section One
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Washington state is #2 in minimum wages

The other Washington is #1

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On January 1, workers in 18 states and 19 cities got a raise, when minimum wages increased under local laws.

Currently, Washington state is second in the country for minimum wages - $11.50 - as a result of I-1433, which passed in 2016. Under the terms of the law, minimum wages in the state will eventually increase to $13.50 by 2020.

Seattle workers do even better than the statewide wage. Also on January 1, Seattle's minimum wage went up to $15 per hour for large companies that offer medical benefits, and $15.45 for those that don't. Smaller Seattle companies must now pay $11.50 an hour if they offer medical benefits, or $14 an hour if not.

Seattle has even established a city office to help workers collect the minimum wage they're due - the Office of Labor Standards. Workers who think their employers are failing to give them the wages they are legally entitled to can contact the office at 206-256-5297.

Nevertheless, with housing and other costs continuing to rise, Seattle minimum wage workers will remain hard-pressed to remain in the city. The median monthly cost of housing in the Seattle metropolitan area was $1,320 last year, well above the national median of $922.

The other Washington, Washington, DC, was number one in the country in minimum wage levels, having gone up to $12.50 on July 1, 2017. The DC minimum wage will continue to increase by $1 per hour every July 1, under the terms of the DC Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2013.

Massachusetts ($11.00 per hour), California ($11.00), Arizona ($10.50), and Vermont ($10.50) round out the top states for minimum wages.

At the other end of the scale are five southern states and New Hampshire, with no minimum wage laws at all. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee are among the reddest of the red states, and have never had state minimum wage laws.

Alabama even forbids its municipalities from raising local minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 per hour. In 2017, Louisiana lawmakers voted down a bill to increase their state's minimum wage to $8.00, and South Carolina senators killed a proposal to increase theirs to $15.00 by 2020.

New Hampshire legislators defeated multiple attempts to raise the minimum wage rate in the last few years, the latest failure coming in March 2017.

Absent state or local laws that set a higher wage, employers are bound by the federal minimum wage law, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 2009, which sets the minimum wage at $7.25.

Under the FSLA, workers must be paid 1.5 times the standard wage if they work more than 40 hours a week, but - and this is big but - tipped employees can be paid just $2.13 per hour so long as they make at least the federal minimum wage after tips.

High school students in vocational school, full-time students, workers younger than 20, and disabled people can all be paid less than the minimum wage.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have chosen to set higher rates. Cities can also set their own minimum wages, as Seattle and SeaTac have done.

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