Calling higher minimum wages “a disaster for small business owners,” GOP state Sen. Michael Baumgartner Tuesday introduced a bill to strike down local laws like Seattle’s $15-per-hour measure.
OLYMPIA — Calling higher minimum wages “a disaster for small business owners,” a GOP state lawmaker Tuesday introduced a bill to strike down local laws like Seattle’s $15-per-hour measure.
Sponsored by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, of Spokane, SB 6578 would add language to state law that would stop towns, cities and port districts from regulating wages, work hours, retention and sick leave, according to a news release.
The bill would also amend current law so that such changes could only be made at the county, state or federal level — and would strike down local laws currently on the books.
The intention is to “stymie social experimenting by city councils dominated by left-leaning activists,” according to Baumgartner, chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
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“Across this state we see cities where council members have taken a hard left turn,” Baumgartner said in the news release.
“This is a simple check on city councils run by special interests and ideologues out of touch with the needs of the whole community,” he added later.
Baumgartner’s bill comes as voters and local lawmakers in the state and around the nation have approved minimum-wage hikes.
In June 2014, Seattle’s City Council approved the $15 minimum wage, which is being phased in over several years. In 2013, voters of the city of SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage. In November, Tacoma voters passed a $12 minimum wage.
In 2014, voters in four states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — passed higher minimum wage laws.
Baumgartner last year refused to allow votes in his committee on statewide proposals to increase the minimum-wage and provide paid sick leave, effectively killing the bills. Washington state’s minimum wage is currently $9.47 per hour.
In a statement, the advocacy organization Working Washington described lawmakers like Baumgartner as “pro-poverty wage extremists.”
Seattle is evidence that higher wages are good for the economy, “because more people with more money means more customers for more businesses,” said Sage Wilson, communications director for Working Washington.
In a show of how far the minimum-wage movement has advanced, the Washington Restaurant Association said in November that it now actively supports raising the state’s minimum wage.
Baumgartner in his statement also called mandatory sick leave laws “absurd to keep up with when you have locations, employees and deliveries in cities with widely differing labor laws.”
The Spokane City Council Monday overrode a veto by that city’s mayor to enact a policy requiring businesses to provide several days of paid sick leave to most employees.