Today, Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, introduced a “Seattle quarantine” to prevent the spread of excessive minimum wage increases by cities across Washington. With unemployment and economic growth struggling to improve in many parts of the state, Baumgartner hopes to stymie social experimenting by city councils dominated by left-leaning activists.
“Across this state we see cities where councilmembers have taken a hard left turn,” said Baumgartner, chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. “In Spokane, we have a council trying to play ‘Mini-Me’ to Seattle progressives, but what flies in Seattle is often completely unrealistic for communities outside the progressive Seattle bubble. This is a simple check on city councils run by special interests and ideologues out of touch with the needs of the whole community.”
Baumgartner’s bill would preempt local city councils from inflating labor costs through unrealistic starting wage hikes. The proposed legislation prohibits cities, towns, and port districts from regulating employment issues with private employers such as payment of wages, hours of work, retention, and leave, instead applying county law and ordnances in their place.
“Artificially spiking labor costs is a disaster for small business owners,” said Baumgartner. “If wages are higher in one city, it puts pressure on businesses outside that city to pay their employees more. Mandatory sick leave laws are also absurd to keep up with when you have locations, employees and deliveries in cities with widely differing labor laws. We shouldn’t allow one activist city to warp the local economy with irresponsible new laws.”
Washington has the highest starting wage in the country, indexed to inflation to maintain market value. Leave laws and other benefit standards that protect employees are largely consistent and comprehensive across the state. Results from Seattle’s recent adoption of a 15 dollar starting wage so far are mixed and awaiting more data and analysis.
“Special interests should not be able to vote themselves a raise when people are still struggling to get a starting wage job,” Baumgartner said. “Spiking labor costs means fewer jobs for people struggling to gain employment.”
Baumgartner continued, “Unless cities want their cost of living to be as high as Seattle, there should be a fact-based conversation about the real cost of excessive starting wage increases. It’s easy for an economy flush with Amazon and tech cash to experiment with outdated labor theories in their own city, but there’s no reason these ideas will work in the real economy outside Seattle.”