This city now has highest minimum wage in US

Election officials certify a vote approving SeaTac's $15 hourly rate.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 27, 2013 2:38PM

Image: Customers Checking in Car Rental Agency © Lawrence Manning, CorbisBy Jonathan Kaminsky, Reuters


A voter initiative to enact a $15 minimum wage for thousands of workers in a Seattle suburb that houses the region's main international airport won a narrow victory on Tuesday that proponents hailed as a signal moment in the nationwide fight for livable wages.


The measure mandates that 6,300 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and nearby hotels, car rental agencies and parking lots receive a minimum hourly wage more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.


Washington state's hourly minimum wage is already higher than any other U.S. state, and will rise by 13 cents to $9.32 an hour in January. The new wage in the city of SeaTac would be among the nation's highest, just below a $15.38 rate mandated for city workers and contractors in Sonoma, Calif.


Backers of the SeaTac wage ordinance see it as an opportunity to help local workers while encouraging other communities -- particularly cities with progressive tendencies and smaller voting pools -- to take similar action.


"It shows that people are tired of waiting for corporate CEOs or Congress to deal with income inequality and that they can use democracy to make a change," said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for the union-backed Yes For SeaTac campaign.


The measure won by a margin of 77 votes with about 6,000 ballots cast, and King County election officials certified the outcome on Tuesday after weeks of uncertainty.


Opponents who fear the measure will slow the region's economy and drive businesses away said they plan to request a manual recount, for which they will have to foot the bill unless the result is reversed.


"This is a pretend solution to a really serious national economic problem," said Don Stark, spokesman for Common Sense SeaTac, a business-backed campaign opposing the initiative. "It is taking money from one pocket and putting it in another."


Foes of the measure, among them Alaska Airlines (LCC), have already sued to block it from taking effect in January, arguing in part that the city lacks the authority to impose a minimum wage on the airport, which is owned by the Port of Seattle.


A drawn-out contest

The election has been a drawn-out affair. On election night three weeks ago, early returns showed the measure enjoyed an 8 percentage point lead, and supporters declared victory.


But Washington state requires voters to mail in their ballots or deposit them in drop boxes. As votes trickled in, the lead narrowed to as few as 19 votes over a week ago before expanding as problematic ballots initially set aside by election officials were tabulated.


The measure covers workers in the travel and hospitality industries, and provides sick leave in addition to a higher wage floor. It exempts small firms, airlines and unionized work forces.


While organized labor hopes SeaTac will act as a catalyst for similar efforts elsewhere -- including in Seattle, which this month elected to the City Council Kshama Sawant, a socialist whose platform centered on a $15 minimum wage -- the initiative is not without precedent.


Since 1994, when Baltimore instituted the country's first so-called living wage ordinance, more than 120 local governments have followed suit, according to the National Employment Law Project.


Four major California airports operate under ordinances similar to the SeaTac measure, including one guaranteeing workers at San Jose airport $13.82 an hour plus health insurance, and another mandating that Los Angeles airport workers earn $10.91 per hour plus health benefits.


More from Reuters

Tags: LCC
Nov 27, 2013 3:15PM

While it sounds good, the unintended consequences will be higher inflation, more jobs lost as businesses are unable to pass along the increased cost to their customers, and elimination of the least productive of those minimum wage workers as employers strive to do more with fewer workers.  Why not $25 an hour or better yet, $50 an hour!  In a few years we will all be millionaires and everyone will live happily ever after!(Never mind that a gallon of milk would be $20, a loaf of bread $10, a new car $120,000 or so for a subcompact)  Everyone would be making more but able to purchase less.  This is progress?

Nov 27, 2013 2:58PM
Does a burger flipper deserve $15/hr?  No.  Does anyone who works a register deserve $15/hr?  No.  Some kid in high school getting that money to do something that is tantamount to not letting their drool get in the food is not worth $15/hr.
Nov 27, 2013 3:04PM
And the liberals will be so surprised when jobs become harder to find!
Nov 27, 2013 3:19PM
Welcome to the socialist section of Washington, SeaTac airport.  Hope you like your $6 mocha and your $15 hamburger.

Interesting that a city can vote in a wage that must be paid by private businesses in a specific area.

Nov 27, 2013 3:19PM
No wonder Boeing is moving jobs elsewhere.
Nov 27, 2013 3:12PM
It will be great for inflation.If you pay low skilled workers $15 an hour ,people with jobs that require some degree of skill who make $15 an hour will also have to get more.Not a great thing for older folks on fixed incomes.
Nov 27, 2013 3:12PM

And the prices raise for everything else, enjoy libs.




"income inequality" So no matter how hard you work, you should getting paid equally.


Typical liberal pukes.



Nov 27, 2013 3:14PM
Well, in 5 years all those hotels near that airport will be large derelict buildings.
Nov 27, 2013 3:43PM
$15.00 as a minimum wage!  When I entered the work force in 1999 I was making $15.82/hour as an engineer working for a construction company.  Flipping burgers is looking more appealing than this engineering gig.  Less responsibility and only slightly less money.
Nov 27, 2013 3:22PM

My wife and I looked at opening a bagel/pastry/coffee delivery business in that area about 18 months ago...and damn, am I glad we did not!

We went before their Zoning panel and were completely turned off by how they presented to us. They were demeaning and mocking of our unique idea. The kicker now of course is [that] from the tone of wage increase article I dont think there are going to be having many meetings of that nature any longer. hahahah  Good..serves them right!

Nov 27, 2013 3:16PM



Good idea, reward someone for being able to take out the trash.


Someone to fuel up a car.


Look across this nation, unions have put state and local governments in the RED time and time again.


Ya, more unions are what we need.



Nov 27, 2013 3:45PM
My uncle is one of many small business that will close.  His profit margin is minimal.  He'll take a loss.  His daughter, my cousin has advanced medical training and makes 14.25 working on an ambulance in Seattle.  Seatac will shut down.
Nov 27, 2013 3:51PM
And as prices rise, and businesses leave/fail, at least the voters know whom to blame.

Nov 27, 2013 3:29PM
Be careful what you wish for...At the $15.00 per hour mandated rate these businesses will be able to hire a more educated and responsible work force...the non-college workers will be out on the street...replaced with non-working college grads...
Nov 27, 2013 3:48PM



Who is forcing these individuals to work for these evil rich?


Many of these evil rich have CREATED a workforce and pay individuals for the type of job they do.


These individuals can CHOOSE to work harder and make a better life for themselves.



Nov 27, 2013 4:10PM
It is just wrong for the public to vote on the wages a private business has to pay.  They have no concept of costs of doing business, paying unskilled versus skilled and the associated increase in prices, decrease in service or both.  The people that vote for this will be the first to complain about these things.
Nov 27, 2013 3:43PM



I am not telling anyone (specifically) what they should make, commenting on what the article says.



You SHOULD get paid for the work you do, NOT for how a union controls or threatens a company or industry.



Nov 27, 2013 3:42PM
It's the unions. They will bring us all DOWN!
Nov 27, 2013 3:28PM
If there are actually any jobs that people can be hired to do there,  it's going to be a gold rush..........until they find out the cost of living in those parts.
On the flip side,  electronics,  games,  and gadgets will get a boost because all the formerly minimum wage jobs are basically no-skills-required kid jobs who blow their money no matter how much they get paid.

Nov 27, 2013 3:28PM



That is exactly what you get with unions, substandard work ethic and employees who tell the boss to **** himself.


Go talk to my union rep is what comes next.


You then want to reward individuals who CHOOSE to live a life of flipping burgers or cleaning out rental cars.



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