Before 1998, the minimum wage would languish for years between hard-fought campaigns for increases. People toiling at some of our state’s hardest jobs saw inflation gobble up more of their paychecks each year.
In 1998, EOI joined the Washington State Labor Council, Washington CAN and dozens of other organizations and businesses to support Initiative 688, which proposed boosting the state’s minimum wage and implementing an automatic cost-of-living adjustment.
EOI provided the evidence of I-688’s benefit to workers and businesses, and led strategic communications work for the effort, teaming up with top economists from the Economic Policy Institute for media tours and interviews.
Passage of the measure – approved by majorities in every one of Washington’s 39 counties – was a national political landmark. Since then, 24 states have increased their minimum wage above the federal level. Nine other states and one city have followed Washington’s lead, adding annual inflation adjustments to their minimum wages.
On January 1st, 2009, Washington’s minimum wage adjusted to $8.55 per hour. A full-time minimum wage worker here will earn $17,784 annually – $4,160 more than the federal minimum of $6.55 in 26 other states.
Annual, incremental cost-of-living adjustments protect the buying power of low-wage workers through good economic times and bad. They are also more predictable for employers, who know the amount of the increase well in advance. The added wages are plowed right back into the local economy, sustaining small businesses and promoting economic growth.
Over the past decade, EOI has helped block several attempts to undercut the voter-approved protections of our minimum wage laws. And as we head into uncertain economic times and renewed political attacks on the minimum wage, EOI will continue marshalling the facts to protect workers’ livelihoods.