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Fair pay for hard work is the cornerstone of a strong economy. By highlighting the need for a minimum wage increase of $1.50 to $2.50 in his State of the State address, Governor Inslee is taking a bold step to strengthen our economy by rebuilding the middle class.
For too long, workers have not received their fair share of the economic activity they help generate. In spite of being one of the most productive economies in the world, wages and income for Washington state’s workers have stagnated (see chart), while companies have posted record profits and the stock market is at all-time highs. The benefits of Washingtonians’ hard work and productivity have largely gone to the richest one percent, whose income gains dwarf the gains made by people with lower and middle incomes (see chart).
This is not a sustainable model for a strong middle class. Only when everyone benefits from growth will our economy fully thrive. An increase in the minimum wage is one important step toward reversing these damaging trends. Even with the highest state minimum wage in the country, a worker supporting a family of three would be living in poverty if they worked full-time (see chart).
The vast amount of research on minimum wage increases shows that it boosts the incomes of low wage workers without hurting the economy or resulting in massive job loss. In fact, it can stimulate the economy by increasing demand for local goods and services, which is good for businesses. Businesses need customers to thrive – the well-being of workers and business are interdependent.
If we say we value work in Washington state then we need to value workers. An increase in the minimum wage is a crucial step of what should be a broad economic strategy to reduce income inequality, increase social mobility, and rebuild the middle class.