Labor Secretary Mum On Whether Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Idea Makes Sense

Mar 3, 2014

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez says he supports the idea of a higher minimum wage, but he wouldn’t comment on whether Seattle’s proposed rate of $15 per hour makes sense. Perez made the comments during a visit to Boeing’s Renton factory Monday.

Perez is one of the champions in President Barack Obama’s administration for boosting the federal minimum wage.

“I’m always amazed at the number of business leaders who come to me and say, ‘I support increasing the minimum wage, because I don’t have enough customers,”’ he said. In other words, customers need money to be able to buy things.

During his visit, Perez praised an aerospace training program that he said is helping people get good, middle-class jobs. In response to a question, he said it’s time to make sure the lowest-wage workers in the economy get a raise. Still, he wouldn’t comment on a specific figure.

“I’m not passing judgment on the amount the state of Washington should do, or the city of Seattle or SeaTac, but I strongly support efforts to allow people who work a full-time job not to have to live in poverty. The minimum wage because of inflation is worth 20 percent less now than when Ronald Reagan was president," he said.

Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country, and it’s indexed to rise with inflation. Still, a study last year showed that a minimum-wage earner in Washington would have to work two full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Owners of small businesses have been increasingly speaking out against the idea of $15 per hour. Some say they might have to lay off workers or delay expansion plans.

This Wednesday, the Seattle City Council and a committee appointed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will hold a public hearing at Town Hall on the issue.