An initiative to boost the minimum hourly wage in Tukwila by more than $3, including at Westfield Southcenter Mall, has qualified for the November ballot.

The Raise the Wage Tukwila campaign has submitted enough signatures to qualify for a vote, according to a new tally posted by elections authorities.

The initiative process will move to the Tukwila City Council, which can pass the initiative into law or send it to the ballot.

Currently, Tukwila employers must adhere only to the state’s minimum wage of $14.49 an hour, whereas SeaTac and Seattle employers are covered by city laws. SeaTac’s minimum wage is $17.54 for hospitality and transportation workers; Seattle’s is $17.27 for most workers, with some exceptions. Each is adjusted annually for inflation.

The Tukwila initiative would set that city’s minimum wage to approximately match SeaTac’s going forward, also putting it on par with Seattle’s. Rather than covering only transportation and hospitality workers, Tukwila’s new minimum wage would cover all sectors.

Initiative aimed at Southcenter could raise minimum wage in Tukwila to match SeaTac, Seattle

The initiative is aimed at Southcenter. The chain stores, restaurants and hotels in and around the mall are a hub for lower-wage jobs, drawing workers not only from Tukwila but from other cities in South King County. Employers with 15 to 500 employees worldwide would get a phase-in period. Those with fewer than 15 and grossing less than $2 million annually would be exempt.

There are precedents for the effort. Unions and activists won minimum-wage increases in SeaTac (from voters) and Seattle (via legislation) in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Those campaigns took shape as the Puget Sound region’s recent tech boom began. Now, the political and economic variables include a labor market reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant inflation.

Raise the Wage Tukwila, the campaign behind the initiative, needed 1,670 signatures from Tukwila voters and submitted more than 3,008. King County Elections found 1,735 to be valid, the agency posted late Monday.

The campaign has been led by the Transit Riders Union, an advocacy organization that, in addition to transit issues, also works on housing and economic issues. The nonprofit is also the campaign’s largest donor, contributing more than $30,000 worth of staff time, per financial filings.

Tukwila is a diverse South King County suburb of about 22,000. More than 70% of residents are people of color and 52% speak a language other than English at home, according to U.S. Census data.

This coverage is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.