A state lawmaker wants to give voters an alternative to the minimum-wage and sick-leave initiative that unions and their allies are trying to place on the fall ballot.
Unlike the labor-backed initiative, the proposal in the Legislature would block new city and county laws that diverge from state wage and leave standards.
The plan from Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, reflects the views of some business groups. Like a law Tacoma voters approved last year that emerged as a business-backed alternative to a larger increase, it would phase in a $12-an-hour minimum wage.
“You can see that business is kind of coming around,” Hobbs said — brought to the table by activists who made a $15-an-hour or higher wage a rallying cry. He said he and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, looked at the Tacoma policy in crafting this one.
A centrist Democrat who is a frequent ally of business groups, Hobbs said several of those groups are likely to support his measure while others might stay neutral.
The state restaurant association last year threw its support behind a statewide wage increase, complaining about the difficulty of wages that vary from place to place.
“We cannot allow the current system to continue, which is cities and counties doing their own thing,” Hobbs said.
Seattle, Tacoma and SeaTac could keep their requirements under Hobbs’ proposal, which would grandfather in communities with existing labor policies.
The plan is likely to face obstacles on both the left and right. Hobbs is in the minority in the Senate, where Republican leaders want exceptions to the minimum wage for certain workers such as young people. Some Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee, support the initiative.
The initiative campaign opposes pre-empting local policies. Christian Sinderman, a political consultant for the campaign, said businesses in areas with local increases seem to be faring well.
“It’s good to see the political leaders stepping up and talking about this,” Sinderman said, but advocates “are looking at a higher bar and not creating a barrier to local jurisdictions taking action on their own.”
The initiative by Raise Up Washington, announced in January and now in the signature-gathering phase, would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour in steps by 2020 and then return to inflation-based increases.
The initiative would allow people to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked and use up to seven days of that leave per year.
Hobbs said he believes the initiative is likely to pass if it’s the only option presented.
“Why don’t we take destiny in our own hands?” Hobbs said.
Hobbs’ latest plan would go to the ballot. If voters approved, it would phase in the $12 wage by 2020 and then go back to inflation-based growth.
It would let employees earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work and use up to three days of leave in their first full calendar year at a job, then up to five days in future years.