SeaTac and local minimum wage laws

The Wall Street Journal writes about the “patchwork of local wage laws”:

A wave of successful state and local initiatives to raise the minimum wage is creating the potential for a greater patchwork of pay standards around the country than ever before, fueling the debate over whether Congress should raise the federal level.

Of course, Washington is in the thick of things. Our state minimum wage is the highest in the country — $9.19 for 2013 and increasing to $9.32 next year. Additionally, SeaTac’s Proposition 1 would, among other things, increase the minimum wage for certain workers in the town to $15. The measure is currently ahead by 77 votes; Common Sense SeaTac has asked for a recount by hand.

As the WSJ writes,

. . . Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with the support of the White House, is preparing to push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, phased in over several years. As with the last increase, in 2007, this bill is expected to include some tax breaks for small businesses as a way to entice their backing. The bill could come to the Senate floor in December or January. The House isn’t likely to take it up. The last increase was phased in over two years with the last bump, to $7.25, in May 2009.

The patchwork effect means national firms follow, and sometimes fight, dozens of different wage laws. They cite it as a problem, but don’t think it warrants an increase in the national minimum.

In a place like SeaTac, which is home to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, businesses are connected to the airport, so they can’t move away. But they might have to make other changes in light of the new wage. Scott Ostrander, general manager of Cedarbrook Lodge, said the airport hotel will have to raise prices and cut staff if the local minimum wage is lifted to $15 an hour from current state level of $9.19.

The hotel, which employs 117 workers, will likely start charging customers for current freebies such as the airport shuttle, breakfast and wireless Internet access to counter “the extreme cost increase,” he said.

In our report on Proposition 1, we wrote,

The businesses directly affected by Prop. 1 include a number of national retail, restaurant, and transportation employers operating in a multitude of cities. Harmonizing state policies to create consistent employment policies can be a challenge, but it is one with which most businesses are familiar. As cities adopt their own “living” wage, labor retention, and other HR policies, the compliance challenges multiply. Compliance burdens require additional staffing. Equity issues among employees in various locations become a problem. The risk of costly litigation and mediation make certain locales less attractive for investment and job creation.