$12 Minimum Wage Passed in Tacoma, Washington

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 4, 2015

Voters in Tacoma, Washington, on November 3 approved an ordinance that will establish a local minimum wage of $10.35 starting in February 2016 and then incrementally raise it to $12 by February 2018. Starting in February 2019, the Tacoma minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation each year.

The movement to raise the minimum wage at the local level has appeared almost unstoppable in recent months, as unions and other supporters racked up victories across the nation. But if anything, Election Day 2015 suggests this movement may be approaching a limit:

  • By a margin of more than two to one, voters in Tacoma rejected a competing measure that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This is in line with polls showing that public support for the minimum wage dwindles as the proposed wage approaches the $15 level, as with ballot initiatives expected in California and Oregon next November. The $12 minimum wage initiative was supported by Washington Restaurant Association, which is noteworthy since restaurant industry groups typically oppose minimum wage increases.
  • When it first takes effect, Tacoma's minimum wage will be only 88 cents higher than the Washington state minimum wage - a difference much smaller than other jurisdictions such as San Francisco or Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the local minimum wages can be more than $3 higher than the state minimum wages.
  • The same day that the Tacoma ordinance was approved, voters in Portland, Maine, and McCall, Idaho, rejected minimum wage ordinances.
  • "[V]oters understand $12 is best for Tacoma," Tom Pierson, CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, told the Tacoma News Tribune.