Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Washington’s minimum wage falls far short of a living wage

Isaiah Day, Spokane restaurant worker PHOTO/Colin Mulvany

Isaiah Day, Spokane restaurant worker
PHOTO/Colin Mulvany

Despite have the best minimum wage in the county at $9.19/hour in 2013, Washington’s minimum wage still falls short of what many people need to meet basic needs.

A recent report from the Alliance for a Just Society titled The Job Gap Report finds that many minimum wage workers are struggling just to make ends meet. One of those workers is 23-year-old Isaiah Day, who works as a cook in a Spokane restaurant.

Day earns $9.75/hour and is only able to work 30 hours per week, so he supplements his income by selling plasma on the weekends. His dream is to return to college, but can’t afford to while earning so little, and without family support. As Day writes in the report:

“With a higher-paying job and more money, the first things I would focus on are returning to college and finishing my education. I hope to work for my community after college, advocating for better mental health care, better support for homeless families, and expanded opportunities for at-risk youth.”

Living wages in selected states, 2012

Living wages in selected states, 2012

The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since it was established, it would be $16.54 in 2012 dollars. Not coincidentally, perhaps, a living wage for a single adult in Washington state was $16.13 last year.

We should be proud of Washington’s best-in-the-nation minimum wage, but let’s not pretend it’s enough to live on.

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