Note to Tacoma workers: The minimum-wage increase that passed Tuesday in Washington state? It won’t apply to you right away.
That’s because the city’s minimum-wage law remains stronger for a little while longer.
Last year, Tacoma voters approved a minimum wage that will grow each year until it tops out at $12 an hour in 2018. Initiative 1433 goes further, incrementally raising the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 an hour in 2020.
As both wages work their way up to their full potential in the next couple of years, which one can Tacoma workers expect to make?
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The answer, according to the state’s Department of Labor and Industries: Whichever is higher.
The state wage won’t reach its peak for more than three years: It rises to $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020.
That means Tacoma’s minimum wage will be higher than the state’s until 2019, depending on inflation. In 2020, the state’s wage will be higher and take precedence over the local — unless Tacoma voters pass a higher minimum wage by that time.
Alan Stancliff, who was an organizer with the group that lobbied last year for Tacoma to raise its minimum wage to $15 immediately, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Tacoma sees another push for $15 in the next couple of years. He said the next proposal might learn from 15 Now Tacoma’s defeat at the hands of an alternative $12 phased-in wage proposal.
“Just from a tactical point of view, if it comes up again my personal opinion is I wouldn’t object real strongly to a one-year phase-in and the reason isn’t that I favor a one-year phase-in, but I think it might be a little easier sell,” Stancliff said.
Paid leave also is part of I-1433. The new law will require employers to give employees one hour of leave for every 40 worked, but it won’t take effect until 2018.
Tacoma’s paid leave ordinance that took effect earlier this year gives employees one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 24 hours in a calendar year.
In Tacoma, employees can carry over up to 24 hours of unused paid leave into the next year, but employers can limit use of paid leave to 40 hours per year.
It’s too early to know which of the laws will prevail in Tacoma because I-1433 doesn’t spell out all of the details for paid leave.
Those details will have to be worked out in a rule-making process, according to a Labor & Industries spokesman.
But Tacoma workers stand only to benefit. In Washington state, if there are two or more laws that cover employment law, the one most beneficial to the employee applies.
Other parts of I-1433 also need to be cleared up, said Stephanie McManus, programs manager with the Washington Hospitality Association, which opposed the initiative. The law indicates that the minimum wage is for workers 18 and older, which has left some wondering how to pay teen workers who are still minors.
“We’re hopeful that we can work to find some more ways to make the law better now that it’s passed,” McManus said.