Seattle Suburb May Raise Minimum Wage

UNITED STATES

Washington already has the highest state minimum wage in the country, at $9.19 an hour. Soon, voters in the city of SeaTac will decide whether to push the local minimum even higher, to $15 an hour. (New York Times)

Use our resources to better understand the minimum wage—it’s $7.25 nationwide, but may be higher in your area.

Map by John Kappler and Neeraj Sirdeshmukh, National Geographic Education

Map by John Kappler and Neeraj Sirdeshmukh, National Geographic Education

Discussion Ideas

  • According to our “media spotlight” map and the NY Times article, the states of Washington and Oregon have set the highest minimum wages in the U.S. What states have the lowest?
    • A lot! As the name indicates, the minimum wage in the United States is $7.25/hour. No state can set a lower minimum wage than that. States that have no set minimum wage, such as Wyoming or Georgia, must adhere to the $7.25/hour federal standard.
  • Review the NY Times article. How do supporters of a higher minimum wage in SeaTac think an increase will impact the lives of those earning minimum wage? How do they think it would impact their employers?
    • Employees: Supporters say an increase in the minimum wage would help lift families out of poverty. Wage-earners may not have to work multiple jobs in order to pay rent, buy food, and support their families. “Fifteen dollars an hour would really help—it would enable people to pay their bills on time and fix up their houses,” says one worker earning close to minimum wage.
    • Employers: According to Arindrajit Dube, an expert interviewed in the article, higher wages attract more skilled workers and reduce employee turnover. Furthermore, airlines and small businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees)—including those at the area’s largest employer, the massive Seattle-Tacoma International Airport—would be exempt from the increase.
  • Review the NY Times article. How do opponents of a higher minimum wage think an increase will impact the lives of those earning minimum wage? How do they think it would impact their employers?
    • Employees: Opponents say an increase in the minimum wage would lead to fewer jobs and decreased hours for minimum-wage earners.
    • Employers: An increase in the minimum wage would drive up costs for local businesses in SeaTac. Employers would increase prices for consumers, something many business-owners fear would drive away customers. Faced with increased costs or shrinking profits, businesses may respond by “cutting employees, raising prices or moving out”, according to the article.

U.S. Department of Labor, come back, we miss you!

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