State minimum wage increase could go to voters in November

by: Maria Guerrero Updated:

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SEATTLE - Raising the state's minimum wage could be on November's ballot.

A statewide effort to gather enough signatures kicked off Saturday across the state and it has the support of two presidential hopefuls.

"Could I ask you to sign a petition to raise the minimum wage in Washington state?" Danica Johnson asked while stopping two people on Capitol Hill.

Johnson doesn’t work minimum wage jobs anymore, but she is volunteering to increase wages for those who are.

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"It's going to be a really, really incredible change for 1 million workers in Washington state," she told one man signing a petition.

If approved, Washington's minimum wage would go from $9.47 an hour to $13.50, phased in over the next four years.

The Raise Up Washington campaign needs 250,000 valid signatures to send the matter to voters in November.

The campaign's goal is to gather 330,000 signatures to cover any signatures that are disqualified.

More than 100 Raise Up WA volunteers gathered at the Washington State Labor Council to kick off the campaign for a higher wage, as well as sick and safe leave.

Sick leave would allow workers to use paid sick leave to stay home to take care of themselves or their family members, according to the campaign.

Safe leave would allow workers coping with domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking to seek health care, a restraining order, go to court and retain their jobs.

Domestic abuse victims would be able to use sick leave as safe leave, according to the campaign.

The Democratic presidential candidates both tweeted their support for the Raise Up WA effort.

Makini Howell owns Plum Restaurants in Seattle and intends to increase all her employees’ wages to at least $15 an hour this year.

Some already make $15, others do not.

Howell also says she is also considering doing away with tips in exchange for a 20 percent service charge that would then be distributed to workers.

She supports a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage.

© 2017 Cox Media Group.

"You want these people to stay long term so in doing that you have to invest in their paid sick and safe time, you have to invest in their wages, you have to invest in them as a person," she said.

Johnson was met with mixed reaction and not everyone was on board.

Randy Jones decided not to sign the petition, saying he needed to think about the issue.

"You pay an unskilled person to flip a burger, the price of the burger goes up,” he said. “Instead of that person going and getting a class or something to be able to better themselves to get a better-paying job."

If this initiative goes to voters and is approved, the state's minimum wage would first increase to $11 starting in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020.

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