Renton residents, city leaders weigh in on raising minimum wage to at least $19

RENTON, Wash. — The first day of the New Year brought new minimum wages to Seattle, Tukwila, and SeaTac.

With the cost of living rising across Western Washington, Renton voters will decide on an increase to the city’s minimum wage during an upcoming Special Election.

“I make well above minimum wage, and I’ve experienced sharp price increases from everything from groceries to gas to diapers. Everything is much more expensive,” said Ellie Robertshaw, board director for Raise the Wage Renton.

In a Dec. 4 city council meeting, members from Raise the Wage Renton and other Renton residents took to the podium to express support for raising the city’s minimum wage from $15.74 to at least $19, a wage that some small business owners find daunting, but not all of them.

“I believe it is time for Renton to live up to its motto of being ahead of the curve and follow suit,” said Renton business owner Tawnee Kinnebrew. “I hired my first employee at $15.50 an hour in 2021 and that same employee makes $20 an hour today and will be receiving a raise in January in line with annual inflation rates. Paying my staff a living wage and providing annual raises has never hindered my business or put me out of business.”

Raise the Wage Renton treasurer and teacher association president Julianna Dauble says that some kids and teens in Renton have to help supplement their families’ minimum wage incomes. That gets in the way of things like after-school sports and activities.

“Many of our parents work minimum wage jobs. When kids don’t have parents at home to help them with their homework, we all suffer,” said Dauble.

That’s something one Seattle University law student knows all too well.

“At 19 years old I became the breadwinner, picking up full time work while being an undergraduate at UW, yet despite working so many hours, it was not enough to make it,” said Monica Mendoza-Castrejon.

Renton City Councilmember James Alberson Jr. voted against the ordinance late last year, arguing that the minimum wage isn’t meant to fully support people financially.

“The minimum wage, the unskilled wage, was not originally designed to be a living wage…chances are you’re not supposed to raise a family on minimum wage. It’s hard, it happens, but that’s not what we’re talking about —I’m not trying to be cold,” said Alberson.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2022, the median household income in Renton was $40,681. At $15.74 an hour, a minimum wage worker would have to work more than 50 hours a week — 10 hours more than the average full-time employee.

At $19 an hour, an employee would need to work at least 45 hours a week to make $41,000 a year, before taxes.

Voters can weigh in on the upcoming initiative on Feb. 13.