THEY WANT TO COME BACK: Activists Aaron Sherman of Renton, Wash., chants with other protesters during a December march in support of higher minimum wages in SeaTac, Wash.
By Dustin Hurst and Shelby Sebens | NorthwestWatchdog.org
The community organizers are coming to a city near you, but not if a group of Republicans in the Washington State Legislature can help it.
Last year, community organizers invaded the tiny suburb of SeaTac to test if they could entice residents to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage law through a public vote.
Their efforts worked.
With the victory in the bag after the initiative survived a narrow vote and a recount, newly emboldened activists, fueled by huge sums of cash provided by labor unions, set their gaze on the Emerald City.
And any other city that will have them.
Seattle, though, is the latest battleground for the community organizers. The mayor and the City Council like the idea and are working to push it forward.
But state Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, wants the decision on the minimum wage to be made a little farther south — in the Statehouse in Olympia.
Braun and a cadre of Republicans are pushing legislation to pre-empt any city ordinance that set minimum wage floors. The legislation, if passed in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, effectively would revoke the SeaTac rate three months after lawmakers conclude their 60-day session.
The senator told Northwest Watchdog he isn’t trying to take sides on the minimum-wage debate with his legislation, but instead is trying to protect businesses that operate statewide. A piecemeal approach to wages is not appropriate and may add complexity to the state’s business environment, he said.
“It’s not like business stops at the city line or the county line,” Braun said. “Making the system more complex is not going to help our situation.”
Max Nelson, a labor policy analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank, said the patchwork approach would create a “very difficult business climate” that would hurt economic growth.
“That’s something that needs to happen at the state level,” Nelson said of the minimum-wage proposal.
Braun said upping the minimum wage will not fix the poverty problem in Washington state.
“If we really care about poverty, we should look at how we create jobs,” he said. “Nobody’s making the argument that it (the wage hike) creates jobs.”
Braun said he doesn’t plan to take other issues out of the hands of local government, however.
“I’m an advocate for local control,” he said. “I think that most decisions are absolutely better made locally. I have no desire, in most cases, to bring more things to the state level.”
Nelson harbors a few concerns about the legislation, including the removal of local control by state lawmakers. Still, he’d rather legislators side with policies that promote economic growth and ease the administrative workloads on companies.
Washington state already boasts the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.32 an hour. The state married its minimum wage to the consumer price index, which reports on the cost of living in cities and states across the country. Laborers earning the bottom wage received a 13-cent raise this year thanks to the indexing.
If Braun and his crew are successful, it could serve as a major blow to the community organizers who are planning a full-scale assault on cities across the country.
Super-liberal David Morris, director of The Public Good Initiative, said this week that while Washington, D.C., dithers on the wage issues, cities across the country have enacted high pay standards.
Though Seattle is now the frontlines for the wage issue in Washington state, other cities could be next. Activists told the Seattle Times last year that the Emerald City is “just the next step,” and that they would try to take the $15-per-hour fight “wherever we can.”
The Senate committee will hear the bill and likely make a decision on it Friday.
Contact: Dustin Hurst at Dustin@Watchdog.org and Shelby Sebens at SSebens@NorthwestWatchdog.org.
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