(The Center Square) – Voters in Bellingham are set to vote on an initiative establishing a citywide minimum hourly wage of $17.28 in 2024 and $19.28 in 2025.
The minimum wage increases would go into effect on May 1 over the next two years if Initiative One is approved by voters.
Community First Whatcom put the initiative on the ballot and is urging voters to approve of the initiatives, saying that Bellingham workers are struggling to pay rent and make ends meet at the current minimum wage of $15.74 per hour.
Betsy Pernotto, Devan Fischer, and Seth Mangold represented Community First Whatcom’s Initiative One in a statement in favor of the ballot measure on VoteWA.org.
“When we expect workers, especially those with children, to live paycheck to paycheck, our local economy and community are undermined,” the statement reads on VoteWA.org. “A modest increase of $2 in the minimum wage in Bellingham by 2025 will improve the living standards of minimum-wage workers by putting an additional $4160/year in their pockets.”
Washington Policy Center Small Business Center Director Mark Harmsworth published a blog post in July 2023 that describes the minimum wage increase as “job killing.” According to Harmsworth, the wage increase would lead to job loss, reduction in available work hours, and cause further inflation.
Small businesses in Bellingham could become at risk of cutting their operational costs due to a minimum wage increase.
“For many service industries such as restaurants, retail or hospitality, profit margins can be as low as 3%,” Harmsworth said in a blog post. “Increasing minimum wage mandates wipe out that profit and can put a business into negative fiscal territory.”
In turn, businesses could choose to relocate, displacing employees.
Last year, 82% of voters in the City of Tukwila favored a $19 minimum hourly wage. The City of Seattle is set to increase its minimum wage to $19.97 an hour on Jan. 1, 2024.
Community members in Renton worked to place a ballot measure that would increase its minimum wage from $15.74 to $18.99 for employers with more than 500 employees. However, the proposal failed to make the King County 2024 ballot.
Bellingham voters will have to choose to approve or reject the minimum wage increase by election day on Nov. 7.