UW expert weighs in on controversial proposed Renton minimum wage increase

RENTON, Wash. — Minimum wage increases have become a polarizing topic in Renton.

On one side, supporters of the increase argue the current minimum wage isn’t “livable” as the cost of living and inflation continue to increase. On the other side, those against the rise believe this is simply “breadcrumbing” a bigger problem.

KIRO 7 reached out to Dr. Jennifer Romich, a professor at the University of Washington. Dr. Romich teaches social welfare policy and policy practice classes.

Both sides are arguing the importance of voting “yes” or “no” on this initiative.

“There are a lot of myths with this but I think the biggest myth is it’s going to make a huge difference one way or another,” said Dr. Romich.

Renton’s minimum wage falls in line with the state’s recent January 1, 2024 increase from $15.74 to $16.28. Raise the Wage Renton is hoping to increase it to at least $19.

Neighboring cities Seattle, Tukwila, and SeaTac have increased their minimum wages.

But increased minimum wages or not, “a lot of employers are already having to offer more than the minimum wage to attract employees right now,” said Dr. Romich.

Ahead of the special election vote, we asked Dr. Romich about the potential impacts voters may notice if this initiative passes.

“We may see higher prices on things like in industries where they employ a lot of workers they pay a very little amount,” she said.

Dr. Romich was also part of a study from 2017-2018 when Seattle’s minimum wage went into effect.

“We tracked prices and we tracked how businesses responded over that period one finding from that I remember distinctly is there was a big concern over grocery stores and groceries did not increase as the result of minimum wage,” she said.