Screenshot from the June 17 regular Renton City Council meeting.

Screenshot from the June 17 regular Renton City Council meeting.

Renton City Council discusses possible changes to ‘Raise the Wage'

Businesses have voiced concerns about implementation of new minimum wage law

Initiative 23-02, otherwise known as the “Raise the Wage” initiative, was approved by voters in February and is set to go into effect July 1 — and city leaders are discussing the new wage’s implementation and impact.

At the regular Renton City Council meeting June 17, the council approved a motion to refer the issue of amending the Raise the Wage Initiative 23-02 to the Committee of the Whole.

According to the official minutes from the meeting, this amendment was referred to the committee to address the concerns about its implementation from businesses. It requests that staff propose to the committee amendments that would eliminate non-wage related labor standards and provide better clarity and exemption regarding Renton’s wage and how it applies to employees working in the city.

According to the Renton City Clerk’s office, the date when the issue would be discussed again before the council has not been determined.

Initiative 23-02, which was passed by voters during the Feb. 13 special election, requires employers with 15 or more workers or more than a $2 million yearly gross revenue to pay a minimum wage of $20.29 per hour. It requires all employers to offer additional hours to existing part-time employees before hiring new employees or subcontracted services. The initiative also requires that employers not retaliate against employees exercising rights created by the ordinance, and comply with administrative requirements. The proposed ordinance creates remedies and penalties for violations. If enacted, the ordinance cannot be repealed without voter approval, according to the ballot measure.

Renton City Councilmember James Alberson Jr. suggested a possible discussion about the initiative and what could be done to clarify the language. He said he has talked with residents and business owners who admitted they were confused by some of the language in the initiative.

“I can’t help but believe that it’s really the duty of the council to put forth due diligence on this and, quite frankly, any policy that potentially has some significant detrimental effects on the city as a whole,” Alberson said at the council meeting. “I move to refer the issue of amending the ‘Raise the Wage’ to Committee of The Whole to address the concerns we’ve heard about its implementation from businesses and request that staff propose to the committee, basically amendments that would eliminate non-wage related labor standards and provide clarity and exemptions regarding Renton’s wage and who and how it applies to employees working in the city.”

Councilmember Valerie O’Halloran seconded the motion for discussion purposes. O’Halloran said she understood Initiative 23-02 was a vote of the people, and they can get recommendations from staff to clarify ambiguities and remove onerous hardship reporting requirements.

Councilmember Ed Prince said during the meeting that he believes it would be a disservice for the council not to meet and speak about what could be done and have the administration come back and show what options there are. Despite a discussion, Prince said it could be possible that there are no options, but said the council owes it to the people who have regularly attended the city council meetings to at least have a conversation.

Councilmember Carmen Rivera said that this proposed conversation could have been carried out over the last year, giving the council the creative freedom to do what is being asked of them now.

“In the end, this went to a vote of the people. It was validated, and the concerns that are brought up and were even brought up by our city attorney and brought up by the alternative city attorney was that these concerns should have been brought up ten days after the election was certified. That is the law,” Rivera said. “This is dangerously verging on undermining the democratic process. This vote passed by 60%. It is widely unpopular to try to overturn a vote of the people, especially when the business community has only raised these concerns after the vote of the people, to this extent.”

Rivera said she is OK with having a conversation, but said the council must look at what is legally allowed. Rivera said it is a poor reflection that the matter is being referred to the administration, whose mayor is also a business owner.

Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone responded to Rivera, saying that he has always been neutral on the matter.

“I’ve been extremely clear on this, and I haven’t weighed in once on this,” Pavone said. “I have taken my personal position and dealt with it outside of the city, but in terms of how I’ve dealt with it here at the city, I’ve been extremely neutral since day one. So, I think it’s a little disingenuous for you to start casting aspersions.”

Prince said what is proposed is only a conversation, and again, there might be nothing that can be done, but the council owes it to the people to have the conversation.

“This has happened time and time again, where there have been initiatives for the people that have passed, that they felt like there were issues with, and then they’ve gone and had a conversation about them,” Prince said.

The motion was ultimately carried to be discussed at a future Committee of the Whole meeting.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

A free CPR training and career fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Puget Sound Fire
Fire authorities offer free CPR training, career fair Saturday, July 13

Event open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent

Man, 26, drowns at Gene Coulon Beach in Renton

Renton Police are still investigating.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. COURTESY PHOTO
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray questions whether Biden should stay in race

‘President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy’

Renton motorcyclist dies after colliding with elk, second vehicle on I-90

Woman, 46, struck by another vehicle on freeway July 6 after hitting elk

File photo
Federal Way Police shoot man during a domestic violence dispute

Non-life-threatening injuries to the man at apartment complex.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump participated in a debate June 27, 2024. (Screenshot from Google Images)
King County politicos share thoughts on presidential debate

“I can tell you who didn’t win the debate, and it was the American public.”

Fuse Washington created the tongue-in-cheek ‘Save Our Yachts’ website to poke fun at those pushing a ballot measure to repeal the capital gains tax that is paid by the state’s super wealthy. (Screenshot)
Attack websites seep into WA election battles

Such undertakings tend to change few minds and can incite a backlash, especially in communities where negative campaigning is not the norm.

Trash and various debris at a Green River homeless encampment in unincorporated King County along 94th Place South between Kent and Auburn.
Landmark Supreme Court decision criminalizes homelessness

In King County, there are about 16,385 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Courtesy Photo, Renton Police
New technology lets Renton Police track suspects in real time

Renton police say Gladiator Forensics Services allows multiple divisions to more effectively do their jobs.

Traffic backs up on Interstate 5 northbound June 26 in Federal Way after a fatal stabbing in a vehicle. COURTESY PHOTO, Washington State Department of Transportation
Suspect arrested in I-5 fatal stabbing in Federal Way

19-year-old Patriot Ryan Lemay died from a stab wound to the neck in June 26 incident

Selena Taylor on the bench that honors her son Ezra Taylor, who was killed by gun violence in 2021. Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang / The Mirror.
Family of gun violence victim helps Des Moines community and others

Aims to reduce violence in memory of Ezra Taylor, who died in a 2021 triple shooting outside bar

New mental health treatment facility opens in Renton

The first patients are scheduled to move in July 8 from Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health in Tukwila.