Minimum wage conversations spread to other Washington cities

by: Natasha Chen Updated:


As Seattle workers have pushed for a $15 minimum wage, workers in Tacoma are fighting under a similar banner.

The 15Now Tacoma group may be smaller and at an earlier stage of the process, but organizer Maximilian Hyland said the demographics of Tacoma may be in their favor.

“We have a different demographic, in terms of who makes what kind of money. We have a smaller population of well-paid professionals,” Hyland said.

He said relatively more low-wage workers would rally behind the cause. Hyland teaches a lower elementary class at a non-profit Montessori school. He makes less than $15 an hour.

“If I didn’t have a roommate, I would probably be living in a much smaller studio, and I probably wouldn’t be able to afford to have a car,” he said.

William Hassertt is also among the workers making a minimum wage. He works at McDonald’s as he prepares his next move to start a career.

While he would like to go to college, he said he and others at McDonald’s can’t even afford to go to community college because they are unable to save.

Unlike in Seattle, so far no Tacoma city leader has picked up the cause.

Hyland said businesses have given their group mixed reactions.

As they collect signatures to petition the city council, 15Now Tacoma is also watching what happens in Seattle.

“So goes King County, so goes the state. So if they win in Seattle, and we are also able to win here in Tacoma, I imagine it will spread through the rest of the state. There will be a strong push as people see that victory is possible,” Hyland said.

Some state lawmakers attempted to move a bill this legislative session to raise the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour over three years. The bill failed.

Even so, the conversation about a livable wage has become unavoidable.

Alaska Airlines, one of the companies opposed to the SeaTac ordinance for a $15-an-hour minimum wage last fall, announced on Friday they had raised the starting wages of their contracted vendors.

About 800 people will start at $12 an hour, while another 200 will make $10 an hour plus tips. That affects many baggage handlers, wheelchair assistants, aircraft fuelers, cabin cleaners and others who work for these contracted vendors.

While these workers did not want to be identified for this story, some told KIRO 7 they were glad to see the raise, even though they had expected $15 an hour after the SeaTac ordinance passed. They were later disappointed when a judge agreed the city did not have jurisdiction over the airport.