Anneliese Vance-Sherman is Employment Security’s regional labor economist for Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, San Juan and Island counties.
Over the past couple years, the issue of raising the minimum wage has ignited debate locally and nationally. Voters in the City of SeaTac approved a $15 per hour minimum wage that took effect in 2014. Shortly after, the City of Seattle approved a new minimum wage that will reach $15 per hour (adjusted for inflation) to be phased in over several years. The Seattle ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2015.
Following the announcement in Seattle, a number of other governments, businesses and non-government organizations throughout Washington and the U.S. have jumped into the debate, bringing it to a national audience.
Any policy change can have a variety of intended and unintended consequences, and there is no shortage of theories to support both proponents and opponents in this debate.
On the same day the Seattle ordinance was passed, the City Council passed a resolution to study the effects of the new law. The city awarded an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Washington to conduct the multi-faceted study. The team is taking a neutral stance; they aren’t looking to support one theory or another, but to observe actions taken in response to the change, and the way these actions ripple into Seattle-area communities.