At its Mar. 18, 2024 meeting, the Burien City Council passed Ordinance 837, one of the highest minimum wage ordinances in the nation, bringing it more in line with its larger neighbors while providing flexibility for small businesses.

The city’s wage ordinance passed at last Monday’s council meeting by a 4-1-2 vote, with councilmembers Hugo Garcia and Sarah Moore abstaining, and Stephanie Mora voting no.

The City of Burien now joins a handful of Washington’s 65 cities with a minimum wage that exceeds the state’s, which is the highest statewide minimum wage in the U.S. at $16.28/hour. Effective Jan. 1, 2025, large businesses in Burien will now pay $3 above the state minimum wage, which rises annually with the cost of living. Today (and depending on the size of the business) that would be $19.28 per hour, .69 cents below the $19.97 per hour paid in the City of Seattle. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is still followed by 20 other states, which was last raised in 2009.

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For medium sized businesses (more likely in smaller cities like Burien) – those with 21 to 499 FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents) – Burien’s minimum wage law calculates total compensation to include benefits like health insurance and tips as part of the wage, in line with Seattle’s. Minimum compensation is set at $2 above the state minimum wage (or $18.28/hour), in line with the City of Bellingham, which recently set its minimum wage at $2 above the state minimum wage via a ballot initiative.

The City of Burien exempted small businesses, defined as those with fewer than 20 employees, allowing small employers to determine how to best add value for their employees while competing with higher wages at the larger businesses nearby. 

“The City of Burien took a thoughtful approach that the employer community appreciated and was able to support,” said Dan Austin, owner of Flight Path in Boulevard Park. “By looking not only at what other Washington cities have done but hearing from both local workers and local employers about how to strike a fair and workable balance for Burien, the City was able to pass the most innovative minimum wage ordinance in the state, reflecting the uniqueness of Burien’s local economy while increasing the compensation of local workers.”

Read the city’s information website on minimum wage here.

Proponents Disagree, Call New Wage ‘An Embarrassment’

Raise the Wage Burien – a group that wants voters to decide on a higher wage – are working to get a measure on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot for a public vote.

“The Burien minimum wage legislation passed last week by a slim majority of our city council is an embarrassment,” Raise the Wage Burien organizers told The B-Town Blog. “It was designed to be able to say they did it, while carving out their business buddies and doing next to nothing to benefit Burien’s low-wage workers or our local economy.

Comparison of 2024 minimum wages in South King County cities..

Their goal is to get this initiative put on the November ballot like the cities of SeaTac and Tukwila did previously, with a targeted wage of $20.29 per hour, not the $19.28 that was approved by the Burien City Council on Mar. 18, 2024. Organizers will need to gather 15% of the number of registered voters at the time of the last general election (29,469 total), so 4,421 signatures are needed from Burien voters, which will have to be submitted to the state by May. Voters would then vote on this initiative in the Nov. 5 General Election, and if approved, the higher $20.29/hour wage would become law and supersede the city’s $19.28/hour one.

“The coalition of Burien residents and workers, community organizations and labor unions that first brought a minimum wage proposal to the city council last year is extremely disappointed by this lackluster legislation.”

Here’s Raise the Wage Burien’s proposal:

  • Large employers (over 500 employees worldwide) would have to match Tukwila’s and Renton’s minimum wage ($20.29/hour).
  • Medium employers (16-500 employees) would have a 3-year phase-in period.
  • Small employers (15 or fewer employees) would have a gradual 7-year phase-in period.
  • Access to Hours:  Large and medium employers must offer additional hours of work to qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or subcontractors.

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Join the Conversation


  1. Hooray for Raise the Wage – Burien advocates for seeking an honest, equitable raise in basic wages. Please sign the initiative petition to ask Burien voters who they agree with – business owners and their council buddies or average local workers.

  2. Only the radical left would complain about a new minimum wage $3 higher than the highest state minimum wage in the country.

    If Burien residents don’t want to see food prices increase more, small businesses close, and people get laid off, they should not sign their silly initiative. The far left has been mostly voted out of office here, so they are trying to pass laws through initiative process. This is another change to say we don’t support Krystal Marx, Cydney Moore and the failed policies of the radical left.

  3. I agree with the local business owners and elected council members because Burien has a different economic status than neighboring cities. SeaTac has the Port and all the associated hotels and car storage lots that fund it. Tukwila has the mall, dining, entertainment and surrounding warehouses funding it. Renton has all of that and Boeing, so comparing Burien and it’s funding engines to those cities is neither wise or realistic. The wage has been raised in a thoughtful and feasible fashion given the uniqueness of Burien and the predominantly small companies that make us who we are and thankfully so.

  4. Burien now has one of the highest minimum wages in the world. It’s great that we did it in a way that won’t crush our unique small businesses! We should be celebrating our innovative approach.

    Although some folks want to claim there are carve outs different than other minimum wages, that’s untrue.

    Tukwila’s minimum wage exempts small businesses like Burien’s. And like Seattle’s minimum wage, Burien’s considers total compensation for medium sized employers.

    The minimum wage in the US is $7.25, which is far too low. In Washington State it is $16.28, and increases annually at the same rate as the cost of living index. This is already the highest state minimum wage in the US.

    Burien’s largest businesses will pay $3 more than the state minimum wage. And all other businesses will have to compete with that to keep employees.

    But Burien’s minimum wage wage, like Seattle’s allows tips and other compensation to count towards the wage for medium sized businesses. This is time honored tradition in almost every state in the US with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage.

    What the activists won’t acknowledge is the impact on prices, especially food. Most of the workers their initiative will apply to are restaurant and grocery store workers. Raising their wages by 20% and not counting their tips and benefits, will result in higher food prices, less jobs, and fewer options of where to eat out. Choose carefully when thinking about supporting their initiative. Our council, who was just elected, did a great and thoughtful job at crafting a minimum wage that works for Burien. The initiative thinks that Burien and Renton are the same economically. They aren’t, as we all know.

  5. im baffled by why this subject is deemed a failure??? The max request is less than an estimated $20 a week for full time 40hr a week worker. Maybe both sides need to look at what the real issue is and that’s providing a livable a wage at a bare min. Does nothing for the single individual trying to just have the absolute basics for life. Additionally raises for min wage have been at the forefront of government for last 3+ years and nothing has been done for skilled labor and adjustments to those wages. Now anyone with a few more notches on their belt of experience and knowledge are nearly on par with a 19 year old, possible with English as second language, non citizen and first time employment. This is not to speak of ones value as a human as less but instead to what’s fair in relation to what ones value is in respect to earnings.

  6. We used to eat out regularly. Thanks to policies like these and inflation we no longer do so. Good luck to the businesses who have to survive with less customers. There are millions just like me.

    This is a win for online retailers because their economies of scale can more easily outcompete local business.

  7. What do you think businesses will do to cover these new costs? They will have to raise prices on consumers. On top of that theft is at an all time high, thanks to weak leadership, which is why prices are already skyrocketing so now theres no way anyone will afford anything. Diversity wont stop stealing so they will get every store shut down, WAY TO GO WASHINGTONIANS! WERE LEADING THE WAY

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