Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

For Seahawks and workers, 12 is a magic number

John Burbank, EOI Executive Director

John Burbank, EOI Executive Director

12… 12… 12. It seems that everywhere we look, we see 12s. Windows, doors, cars, shirts, socks … 12, 12, 12. Which is as it should be, leading up to the second Super Bowl in a row for the Seahawks.

There are 11 Seahawks on the field at any one time and they are surrounded by the masses of fans — the 12th Man. 12 has come to own Seahawks football. The Seahawks are individual world-class athletes. But they win only as a team and we spur them on as a several-million-member community of fans.

So 12 is key to paving the way to the Super Bowl. It is also a key to decent pay in our state. In Olympia there is a movement for 12 as well. It won’t end on Sunday. It is a movement to establish $12 an hour as our statewide minimum wage. Right now the state minimum wage is $9.47. That comes out to an annual full-time wage of $19,697.60, which is $16,839 less than what the hypocritical and puritanical NFL chieftains fined Marshawn Lynch, Jermaine Kearse, and Chris Matthews at the NFC Championships for celebrating touchdowns.

Think about that $19,697.60. What could you do with all that money? $1,500 goes automatically to Social Security and Medicare. Then you could rent a one-bedroom apartment in Everett for $765 a month ($9,000 plus a year). That leaves you with about $9,000. Then you spend $150 on food each week. There goes another $8,000. You have $1,000 to go, with no car, no bus pass, no health coverage, no phone, no tuition money for education.

If we look back, we find a time in which the minimum wage purchased a lot more than now. In 1968, the minimum wage of $1.60 was the equivalent of $10.88 in 2014, or $1.56 more than what our minimum wage actually was last year. So looking forward, why not 12? It is a good number, a reasonable goal and certainly something that should be the floor for wages.

That is what Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle has in mind. She is the author of the $12 minimum wage bill, House Bill 1355. She is joined by Snohomish County State Reps. Cindy Ryu and Ruth Kagi, D-Shoreline; Derek Stanford, D-Bothell; Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace; Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo; Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds; Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish; and Mike Sells and June Robinson, D-Everett. There is an identical bill in the state Senate, sponsored by Snohomish County Senators Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo; Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline; Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell; and John McCoy, D-Tulalip.

This $12-an-hour minimum wage takes a conservative approach. It goes up to $10 in 2016, $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018 and $12 in 2019. After that, it has an automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), to keep up with inflation. With these small steps, it is quite likely that when it reaches $12, it still won’t have the purchasing power that minimum wage workers had in 1968. So this bill is a step, but not the total solution to workers who work themselves into poverty when their employers pay them no more than our current minimum wage.

How will $12 help our economy? By putting more money into it. Minimum wage workers don’t have the luxury of investing their money. They spend it. In 2016, with the increase to $10 an hour, each worker will earn about $1,000 more. By 2018, at $12 an hour, these workers will earn $2.53 more per hour, adding up to $5,000 a year. For the approximately 300,000 workers who will directly benefit, that equals about $1.5 billion a year altogether. That’s good for the economy and good for business. For these workers, it means they might be able to do a little better than just pay the rent and utilities. They might actually be able to enjoy a beer and eat some nachos, like pretty much all of us will be doing next Sunday.

So let’s not let 12 end when the clock runs down at the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, win or lose. Increasing the minimum wage to $12 enables us to own 12 in our hearts. It is the right thing to do. It is a win for all of us! Go Hawks!

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