Workers ready, employers brace for Seattle’s minimum-wage law

Malcolm Cooper-Suggs, who works at a McDonald's in downtown Seattle, is eagerly awaiting April 1, when his wage will rise from $9.47 an hour to $11 an hour.

David Jones, who owns two Subway franchises in Seattle, is planning to raise the wages of his employees at that point. But he’s also worried about how he’ll offset the approximately $250 a week per store the wage increase will cost, and about small, competing restaurants on his street that will have more time to raise their employees’ wages.

And Jan Simon, president and CEO of the Washington Lodging Association, says there are still a lot of questions among her members about what the law will actually require.

The law, which increases the minimum wage for workers in Seattle until it reaches $15 by 2021 at the latest, goes into effect in two months.

But even as workers are eagerly anticipating the wage bump, some employers are uncertain about how to proceed. They wonder, for instance, how tips factor into the formula for calculating what they have to pay, and whether increasing the pay for their minimum-wage workers in Seattle might have ripple effects such as other workers in the company expecting raises as well.

To clarify some of the confusion, the city is working out rules for areas where the ordinance isn’t clear, such as whether the payment rate for temp workers is determined by the size of their staffing agency or the contracting employer. It’s also ramping up its outreach efforts.

“We understand learning all the complexities is going to involve a learning curve for workers and businesses,” said Karina Bull, policy analyst and business liaison with the city office that oversees the implementation of the minimum-wage law.

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