May 16, 2024 - News

King County raises minimum wage to $20.29

Illustration of a dollar sign with an arrow for a middle bar over a grid.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The King County Council approved a minimum wage increase this week, bringing it to $20.29 an hour, the highest in the country.

Why it matters: The wage hike builds on a long history of minimum wage increases in Washington. The state's minimum wage went from $15.74 to $16.28 in January, a 3.4% increase.

  • While Washington's statewide minimum wage is the highest in the U.S., it falls just below the District of Columbia's $17.
  • The federal standard is $7.25.

Yes, but: Without a standard countywide minimum wage, communities in King County have had a patchwork of different minimum wage thresholds.

  • Tukwila already had a $20.29 minimum wage, but in Skyway, it's just $16.28.

What they're saying: "Even though they're suiting up and clocking in for work every day, they continue to struggle to afford their rent, to pay for gas, to support their children," County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay said of minimum wage workers at Tuesday's council meeting.

Friction point: The bill passed 7-2, opposed by Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer.

  • Dunn introduced amendments that would have included other forms of worker compensation in determining the rate increase and limited it to urban areas, but they did not pass, the South Seattle Emerald reported.

How it works: The increase only applies to unincorporated areas of King County, and doesn't cover municipalities like Seattle, where the minimum hourly wage is $19.97.

  • The increase will be phased in starting Jan. 1, applying immediately to businesses with at least 500 employees.
  • Those with fewer staff members will begin with a lower new minimum wage, determined by their annual revenue and number of employees.
  • By 2030, the same minimum wage would apply to all businesses in the county, regardless of size.
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