By Nicholas Johnson

Hospitality and transportation workers in the city of SeaTac – which is home to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – are set to receive the highest minimum wage in the country starting Jan. 1, 2022.

When it rises from the current $16.57 per hour to $17.53 per hour, the minimum wage for those workers will not only top Seattle’s minimum wage – set to increase from $16.69 per hour to $17.27 per hour on Jan. 1 – it will surpass the current highest minimum wage in the country: $17.13 per hour in Emeryville, California, which increases on July 1 of each year.

Earlier this month, the city of SeaTac announced the 5.83 percent increase, which is based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W). The state, which relies on the same federally calculated index, is set to raise its minimum wage from $13.69 per hour to $14.49 per hour on Jan. 1.

In 2021, Washington had the highest minimum wage ($13.69 per hour) among U.S. states, unless you include the other Washington. On July 1, the minimum wage in the District of Columbia rose to $15.20 per hour. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009.

Primarily due to inflation, this year’s 5.83 percent increase will be the greatest since SeaTac voters approved in 2013 the city’s Minimum Employment Standards ordinance, which took effect Jan. 1, 2014, increasing the minimum wage for hospitality and transportation workers from the 2013 state minimum wage of $9.32 per hour to an even $15 per hour.

In contrast, Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance, which took effect April 1, 2015, took a phased approach, requiring the minimum wage to rise to $15 per hour for all workers by 2021.

After voters narrowly approved the SeaTac ordinance through a ballot measure in 2013, the Washington Restaurant Association, Filo Foods, BF Foods, the Port of Seattle and Alaska Airlines challenged the city’s new ordinance in court, arguing among other things that it should not apply to employers at Sea-Tac Airport.

In August 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled that the ordinance could apply to Sea-Tac Airport “because the Port of Seattle does not show that Proposition 1 would interfere with airport operations.”

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].


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