Op-Ed

Measure 1B: Wage compromise that’s right for Tacoma

Marilyn Strickland is mayor of Tacoma.
Marilyn Strickland is mayor of Tacoma. Courtesy photo

Opportunity, diversity, collaboration and a willingness to compromise are all part of what make Tacoma a great community.

We encourage entrepreneurs and businesses, we celebrate the cultures that create the fabric of our city, and we appreciate the accomplishments of the people who live and work here. We want everyone to succeed. And we work together to achieve our civic goals for the greater good.

The time is right for a minimum wage increase in Tacoma, and Measure 1B on this fall’s ballot is the minimum wage increase best suited for our city and our local economy.

Measure 1B will increase the minimum wage in Tacoma to $12 an hour and help address income inequality with a 27 percent wage increase. Phased in over two years, it will give workers a significant boost in income and provide businesses time to plan and adjust.

The Tacoma City Council put Measure 1B on the ballot to give voters a solid reason to vote in favor of raising the minimum wage and provide an alternative to the “all or nothing” solution that calls for an immediate jump to $15 an hour.

Measure 1B, the $12 for Tacoma proposal, is supported by a broad coalition of community and business leaders and was put on the ballot after input and collaboration among Tacoma’s largest employers, small businesses, nonprofits, labor unions, students and elected officials. Like the current minimum wage, $12 for Tacoma is simple, has no exemptions and applies to all workers. It does not discriminate based on age, size of business, benefits offered or industry.

While some have argued in favor of the more aggressive proposal on the ballot, we are concerned it could force small businesses to lay people off or cut hours, hurting the very workers the proposal hopes to help.

Even Seattle – with 3.6 percent unemployment and a cost of living about 25 percent higher than Tacoma – recognized that an immediate jump to $15 was a mistake. Its leaders made the decision to phase in its minimum wage increase for up to seven years, depending on the size of the business.

We are blessed to live in a city that is on the rise. But we can’t take our progress for granted. While the local economy is improving, that is not guaranteed in perpetuity. Measure 1B is the smart, responsible choice and will help workers.

A minimum wage increase alone will not eradicate poverty. There are many contributing factors, including the supply of affordable housing, more reliable public transportation, the cost of child care, access to training and education, to name a few. But Measure 1B will help. When fully enacted, $12 for Tacoma will allow minimum wage workers to earn $5,000 more per year in increased wages, based on a full-time schedule.

Small local businesses are the backbone of Tacoma’s economy. Make no mistake – some of them will need to make adjustments by having to increase wages by 27 percent over two years. Some may prefer to keep the state minimum wage of $9.47 an hour.

We believe that Measure 1B works best for Tacoma. It’s a major step forward, but not an immediate leap that may cause businesses to trip, fall and fail.

We encourage voters to study their ballots closely because this issue is more complex than some other choices. We believe it’s time to increase the minimum wage in Tacoma, and we encourage you to vote in favor of an increase, which is the first step on the ballot.

The second step is to make a choice between Measure 1, which imposes a $15 minimum wage virtually overnight, and Measure 1B, which is the reasonable, responsible choice that increases the minimum wage to $12 over two years.

Remember, in this instance, “B” is best. Measure 1B is the best choice for our local economy, our workers and our businesses. It is the compromise that’s right for Tacoma.

Marilyn Strickland is mayor of Tacoma. Reggie Frederick owns Chalet Bowl in Tacoma’s Proctor District.

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