Smart Voter
State of Washington November 3, 1998 General
Initiative 688
Minimum Wage

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Infomation shown below: Official Information | Impartial Analysis | Arguments |
Shall the state minimum wage be increased from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999 and to $6.50 in 2000, and afterwards be annually adjusted for inflation?
Official Sources of Information
Impartial Analysis from the State Attorney General

The Law As It Presently Exists

Existing law, most recently amended by initiative in 1988, sets a minimum wage of $4.90 per hour for any employees of age eighteen or older. The law authorizes the state director of labor and industries to establish by rule the minimum wage for workers under the age of eighteen.

Related statutes define who is an "employer" and an "employee," exempt certain types of workers from the minimum wage law, and set penalties for violations. One of these statutes, RCW 49.26.120, provides that the state minimum wage law is supplementary to federal and local laws, and that any federal or local minimum wage which is more favorable to employees will control over the state minimum wage.

The Effect Of The Measure If Approved Into Law

This measure would increase the state minimum wage for employees eighteen years old or older to $5.70 per hour on January 1, 1999 and to $6.50 per hour on January 1, 2000. Beginning January 1, 2001, the minimum wage would be adjusted each year by the state department of labor and industries by increasing the previous year's minimum wage by the rate of inflation. On September 30 of each year, the department would calculate the minimum wage for the following year. The rate of inflation would be based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, or a successor index, for the twelve months prior to September 1st each year as calculated by the United States department of labor.

The state director of labor and industries would still be authorized to set the minimum wage for workers less than eighteen years old. The measure would not amend any other statutes relating to minimum wages.

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Arguments For Initiative 688 Arguments Against Initiative 688

If you work full time, you shouldn't live in poverty.

Working full time at the current minimum wage barely adds up to $10,000 annually, well below the family poverty level. Many workers and their families are forced to seek public assistance just to survive.

Our current minimum wage discourages work, increases economic dependence, costs taxpayers money for public welfare programs, and puts less money into the hands of working families, causing uneven economic growth.

Initiative 688 raises our state minimum wage to $5.70/hour in 1999 and to $6.50/hour in 2000. Subsequently, the minimum wage would automatically be adjusted for the rising cost of living.


Giving people more incentive to work is good for the economy. Initiative 688 will draw people into the workforce. It will help move people from welfare to work and encourage economic independence. Because better-paid workers are better consumers, it will make Washington a better place to live and do business.

Opponents of Initiative 688, which include the very industries that benefit from paying poverty wages, resist every minimum wage increase and predict serious job loss and inflation. Their dire predictions have never come true. Meanwhile, taxpayers are forced to subsidize poverty-wage employers by providing public assistance to working families who can't sustain themselves.


Raising the minimum wage now-and linking it to the cost of living in the future-will help impoverished working families and help keep Washington working into the 21st Century.

For more information, call (206) 256-6391 or visit

Rebuttal to Arguments Above
The minimum wage is a starting wage and not meant to support a family. Most people who earn it are teenagers or part time workers. Starting wage jobs take people off welfare.

An increased minimum wage will cost families more because prices of everyday goods and services will rise, it will not reduce taxes for working families.

I-688 takes away federal wage protections for entry level workers and small businesses. Vote no on I-688.

Arguments In Favor Submitted By
RICK BENDER, President, Washington State Labor Council; REV. JOHN BOONSTRA, Executive Minister, Washington Association of Churches; ELIZABETH PIERINI, President, League of Women Voters of Washington.

Advisory Committee: GARY LOCKE, Governor, State of Washington; BOB SWANSON, Executive Director, Washington Association of Community Action Agencies; HERB BRIDGE, Co-Chair, Ben Bridge Jeweler; GUADALUPE GAMBOA, Regional Director, United Farm Workers of America; KRISHNA FELLS, Chair, Washington Small Business Owners Alliance.

A 32% increase in the state minimum wage now and unlimited increases in the future will have a direct impact on the family budget of every Washington citizen. When wages are artificially forced up, all other costs go up as well. The price of groceries, gasoline, rent and other goods and services will increase. This will hurt working families and those on fixed incomes, especially senior citizens.

Government mandates for automatic wage hikes and price increases should not be allowed without future voter approval. Provisions of I-688 could have a devastating impact on communities especially outside Seattle. The inflation index is based on urban statistics and does not take into the consideration the special needs of smaller and rural communities. What might work in Seattle is not always good in Colfax, Wenatchee or Aberdeen.

Ninety-two percent (92%) of Washington businesses already pay more than the minimum wage. The minimum wage is really a starting wage not intended to be a living wage. More that 80% of those still making the minimum wage are teenagers or people living within a family with more than $30,000 per year in income.

Big government should not try to fix every economic worry. The marketplace has proven to be a much better regulator of the economy than the government. To help small businesses continue to offer good opportunities for young people and to keep prices from rising out of control, vote no on I-688.

Rebuttal to Arguments Above
The industries paying poverty wages are advancing the same dire predictions and manipulated statistics they use to oppose every minimum wage increase.

According to a University of Washington study:
--Seven in ten minimum wage earners are adults;
--73% are women;
--One-third are the primary wage earners in their families.

Annual adjustments in the minimum wage increase purchasing power, not prices. It's fair, good for our economy and the right thing to do.

Arguments Against Submitted By
CAROLYN LOGUE, National Federation of Independent Business; GARY SMITH, Independent Business Association; RUSS GOODMAN, Washington Restaurant Association.

Advisory Committee: JAN TEAGUE, Washington Retail Association; STEVE APPEL, Washington Farm Bureau; DON BRUNELL, Association of Washington Business; GREGG MINDT, Washington State Hotel & Motel Association; AMY BRACKENBURY, Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores.

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Created: February 16, 1999 18:53
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