In April 2015, Seattle’s new minimum wage law kicked in and initiated the first in a series of raises. By 2021, $15 will be the minimum hourly wage for all workers. Currently the minimum wage is $10.50 – $13 per hour, depending on business size, tips, and employer benefits, and the city’s economy is booming.
Critics and doomsayers have claimed that the law would usher in an economic disaster. However, these fears have been proven unfounded. The Seattle Times reports that University of Washington researchers, who presented new findings to the Seattle City Council on Monday, found that labor markets are thriving.
The Times reports:
During the period covered in the report, typical low-wage workers in Seattle saw their pay increase from $9.96 per hour to $11.14 per hour. Their employment rate and their number of hours increased, as did their overall earnings, according to the report.
Raising the minimum wage did not cause the successful labor market, and the UW researchers suggest that low-wage workers’ hours and employment rate did not increase as fast as they might have with a lower minimum wage. However, the report conclusively shows that raising the minimum wage did not hold back Seattle’s economy, and in return the poorest workers increased their overall earnings.
Based on a survey conducted by UW researches in the spring, the Times reports that, “many employers said they’d be raising prices. But an analysis of grocery stores, restaurants and other stores by the UW team found little to no evidence of that.” In other words, low-wage workers increased their earnings and prices did not increase to match; low-wage workers ended up with more disposable income to increase their quality of life.
The theme of this election season has been the plight of the average American worker in the face of a economy set up to funnel money to Wall Street and the 1%. Seattle is an important piece of evidence that can be used to make the case that America needs a minimum wage hike. Seattle’s new legislation did not stop its economy from thriving, and its workers are better off because of it.