Paid sick leave should be a no-brainer—do you really want to incentivize your McDonald’s cook to come to work with the flu?—so let’s skip to the main course: the minimum wage. Recall that the #15Now movement secured a heightened Seattle minimum wage three years ago. We also already have sick leave. Consequently, I-1433 doesn’t directly affect Seattle workers. But it will influence the destinies of poor workers elsewhere across Washington—where, FYI, a basic living wage is, on average, $13.36 per hour for two working parents with one kid. The question Seattle voters must ask themselves is “Will the benefits of a mandated living wage translate outside our city limits?” There’s a strong argument to be made that while an economic powerhouse like Seattle has a big-enough profit margin to support a living wage, small towns in eastern Washington, where both the cost of living and the opportunities for business are lower, might have a harder time. The higher the minimum wage, the more expensive it is to do business. This theoretically leads to higher unemployment, which is already two to three times higher in rural counties than in King. These legitimate concerns are outweighed, though, by two considerations. First are the benefits of a higher minimum wage: All else being equal, workers who earn more than a poverty wage spend more as consumers, thus stimulating the economy to create more jobs and needing less taxpayer-funded welfare. Second is our moral obligation as a society to reduce poverty and oppose inequality. I-1433 would accomplish both these things, and enable ethical businesses to pay their employees decently without worrying they’ll be undercut by cheaper competitors. I-1433 protects workers, increases public health, and stands as a partial antidote to the incredible poverty and inequality that pervades our society. Vote yes.
Read the rest of Seattle Weekly’s endorsements for the 2016 general election here.