Local leaders push to increase minimum wage in parts of King County to $19 an hour

A group of local leaders are pushing to increase unincorporated King County’s minimum wage to nearly $19 an hour.

The coalition is being led by County Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay, Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Joe McDermott, along with a handful of local businesses.

Currently, King County’s minimum wage is aligned with the state’s $15.74 an hour benchmark. This proposal would bump that number up to $18.99 across the county’s unincorporated areas for businesses with over 500 employees. Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, it would then increase yearly “to reflect the rate of inflation.”

Exceptions would also be made for smaller businesses. Employers with 15 or less workers and an annual gross revenue under $2 million would be subject to a minimum wage $3 under the county mark for any given year. Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, that $3 reduction would decrease by 50 cents a year until it reaches zero. Anyone with between 15 and 499 employees would be set at the county mark minus $2, with that reduction cutting by $1 yearly.

This comes amid recent pushes in cities across the county to increase their own minimum wage. Last year, Tukwila voters approved an $18.99 an hour rate for large employers. Seattle’s minimum wage currently sits at $18.69 an hour, while SeaTac’s is $19.06.

In a fact sheet laying out the King County proposal, councilmembers cite a recent study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which found that workers making the state minimum wage “would have to work 103 hours each week to afford a modest one bedroom rental home at fair market rent in King County.”

Unincorporated areas of King County include White Center, parts of the southeast, Maple Valley, and the Snoqualmie Valley among others.