Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is seeking to put a proposal for a $12 minimum wage on the ballot this fall. The $12 minimum wage would compete with a citizen’s initiative (pushed by $15 Now activists) seeking a $15 minimum wage. Strickland’s proposal, which will be discussed by the Tacoma City Council on Tuesday, will increase the minimum wage increments until it reaches $12 an hour by 2018.
On the other hand, the $15 Now initiative seeks to increase Tacoma’s $9.47 an hour minimum wage to $15 almost immediately. It would allow almost no phase-in period or tiers based on number of employees. Additionally, it calls for jail time for employers who fail to pay the wage.
If Strickland’s proposal makes the ballot, Tacoma voters would be presented with the competition initiatives as a two-part question. Voters will first be asked whether or not either proposal would be approved. If they do, they then would be asked to choose which proposal they prefer. If the majority of voters pick “yes” on the first question, then the proposal that receives the majority of the voters in the second question wins.
No doubt, Strickland’s proposal is her version of a response to criticism that the $15 minimum wage proposal is extreme. In May, Strickland formed a task force to find an alternative to 15 Now’s measure. Nine of 15 members of the task force, which included labor union leaders, sided with a $15 minimum wage increase. Six preferred a plan to raise the wage to $12 by 2019. According to the News Tribune, Strickland “drafted her version based on a City Council discussion of task force recommendations last week.” Her proposal would “raise the wage incrementally, first to $10.35 in 2016, then to $11.15 in 2017 and $12 by 2018.”
Big labor has refused to lend its support to $15 Now’s initiative. Union have been concerned that Tacoma’s $15 minimum wage proposal is more “sweeping than those in Seattle and SeaTac.” In other words, there are no union exemptions.
The Tacoma City Council must decide whether or not to include the competing minimum wage proposal by August 4th, the deadline for the City Council to send items to the county auditor for the November ballot.