New Bellingham Citywide Minimum Wage Goes Into Effect May 1; Among Highest Rates In WA

Business person happily climbs arrow indicating higher wages for Bellingham workers.

Bellingham Herald
By Daniel Schrager

As of May 1, Bellingham has a new citywide minimum wage. After a ballot measure passed last year, the city is raising its minimum wage to $17.28, a dollar more than the statewide rate. Here’s what you need to know about the new policy.

Real Increase Starts Next Year

Starting May 1 of next year, the Bellingham minimum wage will be set at $2 above the statewide rate. If the state minimum wage increases, Bellingham will adjust the citywide rate accordingly. Since the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries sets a new minimum wage each year based on cost-of-living data, Bellingham’s minimum wage will likely jump by more than a dollar next year.

How Does It Compare To Other Cities In WA?

According to L&I, three other cities in Washington have a minimum wage above the statewide rate: Seattle, SeaTac and Tukwila. Seattle’s rate is $19.97 an hour for businesses with more than 500 employees and $17.25 for smaller businesses. SeaTac’s minimum wage is $19.71 an hour, while Tukwila’s is the highest of the three at $20.29 for large employers and $18.29 for mid-sized businesses. Burien recently passed its own minimum wage law, but it won’t go into effect until next year. Washington already has the highest minimum wage of any state, according to U.S. Department of Labor, although Washington D.C.’s is higher.

Are There Any Exceptions?

The new minimum wage “applies to all hours worked by employees within the geographic boundaries of the city of Bellingham,” according to the city’s website. The policy adopts the state’s definition of employee, which has exemptions for “casual labor,” as well as elected officials, a small subset of piece-rate farm-workers, newspaper carriers and childcare workers at a charity, among other increasingly obscure criteria.

State law requires tips to be added onto an employee’s wages, and tips can’t be counted toward minimum wage requirements. The new Bellingham law also creates an exemption for city employees, since the city’s municipal code states that a ballot initiative can’t set the salaries of city employees. But the policy still encourages the city to comply with the new minimum wage law.

What’s A Living Wage In Bellingham?

A living wage in Bellingham is $15.25 for employees with health care included and $17.53 for employees without health benefits, according to the city. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that the real number is $23.52 for an individual and $29.97 for a family of four with two working parents. [An analysis by] the Bellingham Herald found that a more realistic estimate of the living wage in Bellingham is $27.59.

Read the original article here.

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