County council starts work on 'Living Wage' policy

SEATTLE -- Metropolitan King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski has authored and introduced a motion this week proposing a living wage policy for King County, the King County Council said Thursday.

Motion 2014-0058 proposes that the County Council adopt a policy “that a living wage should be paid to county employees and to the employees of persons, businesses, organizations and other entities that receive procurement contracts, tax exemptions or credits or other financial or programmatic benefits from King County.”

Under the motion, the council would direct the county executive prepare a report and  present to the council legislation to carry out the living wage policy no later than Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2014. The report and legislation would address the benefits of setting a minimum level of compensation, exemptions to consider, fiscal impact, and whether the county should set a minimum wage for unincorporated King County and at the King County International Airport.

"Fifty years after President Johnson declared war on poverty, many King County residents continue to struggle to make ends meet, the council said in a release.

The current minimum wage for the State of Washington of $9.32 per hour, about 42 percent less than a living wage for a single adult, officials said.

"Income inequality is a primary factor in the destruction of the American middle class,” said David Freiboth, Executive Secretary of M.L. King County Labor Council. “Actions like this not only contribute to addressing this threat but also raise the general awareness that an out of control market economy is robbing future generations of a fair chance to live the American dream.”

The council follows a move by the Seattle City Council in January to raise the minimum wage of all city employees to $15-an-hour.