President Obama called for a minimum wage hike in his State of the Union Address, but to hear Washington state Democrats tell it, wages aren't the main concern: The real problem is the modern American workplace itself. The minimum wage in Washington state is already $9.32 an hour, more than two dollars an hour higher than the current federal minimum wage. So in an apparent effort to outdo the president, the Democrats in the state legislature would now like to force employers to pay workers that rate, even when they're on vacation and not working.
The Democratic lawmakers' website features a "Quote of the Day" from one of their own, Rep. Gael Tarleton, explaining the plight of today's workers:
Right now the workplace is a rat race. It doesn’t give people time off, it doesn’t give people any economic security, and it doesn’t give people a chance to recharge.
Tarleton made the remarks in conjunction with the introduction of a bill that would make Washington state the first in the country to mandate paid vacation. Via KPLU:
About one out of four American workers gets no paid vacation time, and the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee that workers receive some. Now lawmakers in Olympia are considering a bill that would make Washington the first state in the country to mandate that employers provide paid vacation days.
Under the bill, workers would start to accrue vacation after being employed six months. There are some exemptions. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees wouldn't have to provide paid vacation time, for example, and people who work fewer than 20 hours a week wouldn’t accrue it.
Business groups are not pleased with the prospect of the bill becoming law:
The measure is already drawing heated opposition from business groups. Carolyn Logue is with the Washington Food Industry Association, which represents small, independent grocers. She says they already operate with slim profit margins and are worried their costs will rise.
“The reaction from the store owners has been not very positive,” Logue said. “It’s scary to them to think about how they would manage to make this all work.”
The president said in his speech Tuesday that it's time to "give America a raise." The Washington state Democrats would like to add, "and a paid vacation, too."