Washington State County Approves Unincorporated Minimum Wage Hike, Ties National High

Cashier working
by Spencer Pauley


The King County Council has approved an ordinance that will increase the minimum wage in unincorporated parts of King County.

The legislation increases minimum wage to a high of $20.29, which ties the cities of Tukwila and Renton for the highest minimum wage in the nation.

The annual salary for an employee making $20.29 an hour would be approximately $40,580 for 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year. According to 2022 Census data, the median household income for King County is $116,255.

The bill was adjusted so that small businesses with five or fewer employees and an annual gross revenue of less than $2 million would have an hourly minimum wage rate of $3 less ($17.29). The reduction would decrease annually by 50 cents until no reduction remains. However, some businesses have said that won’t change the impacts to the area. All unincorporated King County businesses will have the same minimum wage by 2030 following the phased in increases.

King County Councilmembers Pete Von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn voted against the minimum wage increase.

“I fear that this massive wage hike will harm, rather than help, my constituents,” Dunn said in a statement following the ordinance’s approval. “This is bad policy, and not nearly nuanced enough to support small businesses and workers alike.”

The Center Square previously reported on businesses in unincorporated King County calling for a “total compensation model,” which includes an employee’s base salary, as well as the value of any benefits and tips received.

Dunn introduced an amendment to the ordinance, which would have allowed tips, gratuities, bonuses, and money paid by an employer towards an employee’s health benefit plan to count toward the hourly minimum wage rate.

Dunn noted that other cities in King County have a total compensation model as part of their minimum wage, including Seattle.

Dunn also introduced an amendment that would have exempted rural areas from the increase.

The council denied Dunn’s amendments.

The new minimum wage for unincorporated King County will take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

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Spencer Pauley reports for The Center Square on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on “The Clinton Affair,” a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.





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