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Bill Could Outlaw Localized Minimum Wage Increases

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A Washington state Republican lawmaker introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at preventing cities and other localities from enacting their own minimum wage laws.

The state has enacted several significant minimum wage laws on the local level. Seattle became the first place in the entire country to pass a minimum wage of $15 an hour back in June 2014, which is designed to phase in over the course of a few years.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, however, has put forth legislation to stop localities from enacting their own minimum wages.

“Across this state we see cities where council members have taken a hard left turn,” Baumgartner said in a statement provided to The Seattle Times. “This is a simple check on city councils run by special interests and ideologues out of touch with the needs of the whole community.”

The statewide minimum wage is currently $9.47 an hour. After Seattle, several more cities across the country began enacting their own $15 minimum wage ordinances. The union-backed Fight for $15 movement has been at the forefront of advocating for the policy in towns and states across the country. Minimum wage supporters have advocated for the increase as a way to help the poor.

The policy has attracted a lot of opposition as well. Critics warn it could actually hurt the poor by forcing them out of the job market. The problem is a lot of businesses simply don’t have the profits to handle such an increase and so employers could be left with few options to offset the added cost of labor. Low-skilled workers or those new to the market are likely to be the first cut because they tend to be less efficient than more skilled or experienced workers.

No state has passed a $15 an hour minimum wage but several are considering it. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already unilaterally raised wages for those working in the fast-food industry, state university workers and state employees. Cuomo also introduced a bill Sept. 10 that will gradually bring the state minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

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