By DAVID GROVES
On Saturday, Jan. 1, the Washington state minimum wage increased, and thousands more workers—including farm workers—gained access to overtime pay protections, all thanks to policies strongly supported by the state’s labor movement.
The state’s minimum wage increased 80 cents to $14.49 per hour, after a 5.83% increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed the increase to more expensive gas, housing, household furnishings, and food.
That cost-of-living increase comes each year as a result of the passage of Initiative 1433, a 2016 ballot measure proposed and supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC) and a coalition of labor and community allies. Thanks to I-1433, all workers in Washington state also receive paid sick leave, earning at least one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Washington workers can carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave from one year to the next.
The state minimum wage applies to workers age 16 and older. Under Washington state law, employers may pay 85% of the minimum wage to workers ages 14-15. For 2022, the wage for that younger age group will be $12.32 per hour.
In Seattle and SeaTac, minimum wage rates are higher than the state minimum.
Also on Jan. 1, the state’s overtime pay standard increases in the salary threshold below which all workers must receive time-and-a-half overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The minimum salary an employee must earn to be considered overtime-exempt has risen to 1.75 times the minimum wage, or $1,014.30 per week ($52,743 per year). Any salaried worker earning less than that has the right to receive overtime pay. Learn more at lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/wages/overtime.
And under a historic new law, Washington’s farmworkers will be eligible to earn overtime, for the first time, starting this year. The law includes a three-year phase-in schedule. It incrementally reduces the number of hours worked by farmworkers before they are entitled to overtime pay. As of Jan. 1, 2022: 55 hours in a workweek; as of Jan. 1, 2023: 48 hours in a workweek; and, as of Jan. 1, 2024: 40 hours in a workweek. Dairy workers are already eligible to earn overtime after working 40 hours in a workweek.
Adapted from a post at The Stand, Washington State Labor Council’s outstanding week-daily online publication.
WHAT ABOUT OREGON?
Oregon’s minimum wage is currently $14 in the Portland metro area, $12 in rural counties in Southern and Eastern Oregon, and $12.75 in the Willamette Valley and North Coast. Those rates go up July 1, 2022, to $14.75, $12.50 and $13.50 respectively, and every July 1 after that will rise according to the cost of living.