October 12, 2016
The Yakima Herald-Republic
INITIATIVE 1433: NO
… If approved, the state minimum wage, now one of the highest in the nation at $9.47 an hour, would see phased-in increases starting at $11 an hour next year and rising to $13.50 an hour in 2020. Another provision, which could run afoul of the state’s single-subject law, would require employers to provide paid sick leave.
Initiative supporters tout this as a boon to Yakima Valley workers, and on the surface they are correct. Compared to the rest of the state, a disproportionate share of low-wage workers would benefit from the increase.
Problem is, a disproportionate share of employers here would feel a larger impact — a too-high minimum wage would prompt employers to hire fewer workers and cost jobs by encouraging companies to automate more duties. And while an orchardist can’t pack up trees and move to another state, other kinds of businesses may not be as encumbered. The placebound ag industry also points out that not only would minimum-wage workers get a raise, those just above them would need a pay bump to stay ahead of the minimum.
Supporters say the increased minimum wage in Seattle — in the process of being phased in to $15 for many companies — has not slowed Seattle’s roaring economy. But Seattle is a national outlier right now in economic growth, and its cost of living far exceeds that of the Yakima Valley. People here can enjoy a higher standard of living on a lot less.
As it is, workers do benefit from Initiative 688, which state voters approved by a 2-1 ratio in 1998. It raised the state minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 the first year, to $6.50 the next year and then was indexed to inflation, leaving the state with the current $9.47. The electorate may well be willing to repeat that outcome, but first voters must consider the economic uncertainty that the initiative would bring. The risk to businesses — and to jobs for workers — isn’t worth the promised rewards.