The Washington state minimum wage has been increased to $13.50 from $12.00 per hour, raising the wages of over two thousand student employees.
The wage increase happened on Jan. 1 in accordance with Initiative 1433 which was approved by Washington voters in 2016. The initiative increased the minimum wage by between $1 and $1.50 at the start of every year until 2020. Every year starting in 2021 will bring a minimum wage increase based on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ cost of living analysis.
The change was generally received well by student employees who are glad to be paid more. Aliana Sandifer, a senior and barista at The 1891 Bistro said that the minimum wage increase is a great thing that she thinks should continue as long as it doesn’t lead to a rise in the cost of living. Senior Chris Olsen who works at the Samuelson help desk agrees.
“It’s important [to keep increasing minimum wage], especially for students because we’re all broke,” Olsen said. “It’s hard sometimes, there’s living expenses and it makes people rely on loans.”
Olsen said the money he makes from the wage increase will go to supporting his family.
For most students, the hours they work won’t change. This is because CWU officials have known about the yearly wage increase since Initiative 1433 was passed, and have been able to budget for it according to Monique Gonzalez, student employment specialist for human resources.
“Nothing’s changed as far as how many jobs are being offered or how many students that we will, in the future, hire,” Gonzalez said. “Each department on campus does have specific budget requirements.”
One student who wished to remain anonymous expressed frustration that they were being paid higher than the previous minimum wage for performing extra supervising responsibilities and didn’t receive a proportionate wage.
“The minimum wage increase itself is good,” the student said. “However, I am frustrated with the university. I was making $13.50 for supervising and $12 when I was not. I now get paid $13.50 for both, which is great because I’m making more money, except I’m not being paid proportionally for the extra responsibilities.”
All CWU departments are responsible for complying with minimum wage standards for their employees but are, according to Gonzalez, free to work within their budgets to pay students what they deem is warranted.