Raising the Bar

The combined efforts of small businesses, community groups and faith, took the first step toward what they call a “common-sense solution” to poverty in Washington State.

On Jan. 22, 2016, the movement “Raise Up Washington” filed Initiative Measure No. 1433, in hopes of raising the statewide hourly minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 for workers 18 and older by January 2020.

Washington would be the 14th state this year to raise their minimum wage to accommodate the rising cost of living in the U.S.

For Initiative No. 1433 to land on this year’s November ballot, Raise Up Washington needs to gather a minimum of 246,372 valid signatures by July 8, according to the movement’s communications representative Erin Shultz. Shultz added that they are well on their way to reaching that goal, but would not release the current signature total.

On their Facebook page, “Raise up WA,” the group posted that “raising the minimum wage will lift Washingtonians out of poverty.”

Clark College’s Vice President of Administrative Services, Bob Williamson, said that if Initiative No. 1433 passes it would be a financial “game changer.” Williamson also said that other things would have to go unfunded in order to pay the higher minimum wage.

To stay within the maximum allowable dollar amount, the number of hours a work-study student works would have to be reduced,” Williamson added.

According to business entrepreneur and founder of the world’s crowdfunding festival One Spark,” Elton Rivas, “It takes a lot more than a single lever” to end poverty.

Manager Brent Gilbert of Mighty Bowl, one of Clark’s on-campus food carts, said that if the initiative were to pass, the Mighty Bowl would have to renegotiate the hours and responsibilities of their employees to compensate for the cost.

Rivas explained that when wages fluctuate, some corporations will partake in “right-sizing,” a budgeting process which may result in layoffs.

“Our solution would not be to lay people off,” Gilbert continued.

The Washington State Board and Policy Center reports that one in every seven Washington state citizens lives below the state poverty line. In other words, over 14% of citizens cannot meet basic survival needs.

The Washington State Department of Social Health and Services set the monthly income limit at $1,952 for one-person households to qualify for welfare. Therefore, anyone working 40 hours per week has to make $12.20 an hour or less to acquire government assistance.

Twenty-three-year-old Clark College Bookstore employee Andrew Gebe claims that he is personally not in favor of a higher minimum wage. He says that “it would probably stop jobs for low-skill workers” such as himself.

For Gebe, the current minimum wage of $9.47 is not sufficient enough to live on. However, if minimum wage is raised, he fears risking reduction in work hours or losing his job altogether due to the strain it will put on employers.

Raise Up Washington said that raising minimum wage would give Washington’s low-wage workers an additional $2.5 billion each year.

According to Yusufu Kamara, an Economics Instructor at Clark College, as the cost of living rises, minimum wage should as well  in order for low wage workers to meet basic survival needs. He also supports a higher minimum wage because he said it could lead to more committed workers, and therefore more successful businesses.

“An increase in minimum wage is long overdue,” Kamara said.

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