Three bills in the state legislature, all sponsored by Republican Rep. Cary Condotta (R-12) would collectively result in a lower state minimum wage, labor leaders said today.



The first bill would tie increases in the state minimum wage (currently $9.04 an hour) to a little-used measure of inflation (CPI-W, which calculates inflation based on wage increases among clerical workers), as opposed to the current standard, CPI-U, which calculates inflation based on wage increases among all urban workers). The proposed new standard grows more slowly than the existing standard, so annual minimum wage increases would be smaller.

The second proposal would allow employers to pay workers who receive tips wages as low as $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum. Currently, waiters and other workers who receive tips have to be paid at least minimum wage. Under federal law, the minimum wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour, although many states have laws setting restaurant wages higher, and some require restaurants to pay minimum wage.

The third bill would prohibit the state from increasing the minimum wage in years when the unemployment rate is above 7.5 percent. Washington State's unemployment rate has been above that level since January 2009; had Condotta's proposal been in effect at that time, the state minimum would still be $8.55, instead of $9.04.

Although Washington's is the highest state minimum wage in the nation (overall, 18 states have higher minimum wages than the federal minimum), if the federal minimum had kept up with growth in CPI, it would be $9.16 today, and if it had kept up with average growth in personal income from all sources, it would be $14.41 an hour.