Community advocates and leaders are pushing to raise the minimum wage in Renton.
This November, Renton voters may get to decide whether or not to raise the minimum wage to match Tukwila’s minimum wage, which is at almost $19 an hour for 2023.
On Jan. 18, Raise the Wage Renton — a coalition supported by labor union leaders, local advocates, workers, and some elected officials — held a press conference to announce the push to include the minimum wage issue on November ballots.
During the press conference several labor leaders spoke, including Julianna Dauble, president of the Renton Education Association which represents educators in Renton Public School. Dauble pointed towards an issue that she said many teachers in the union have noticed; how wage inequality and poverty is affecting student well-being, mental health, and their ability to be successful in school.
With a significant portion of Renton student’s parents working under current minimum wage conditions, Dauble said teachers have begun to notice the effects that the burdens of the local cost of living is having on families and how that impact is spilling over into the academic lives of students.
Dauble said it is no secret that students who come from more affluent backgrounds or whose families are not cost-burdened by basic costs of living “simply do better in school.”
Bailey Medilo, one of the Raise the Wage Renton advocates and a Renton high schooler, spoke of the impact that stagnant wages has had on the youth, forcing students into the workforce earlier as means of supporting their families. Student, Xandra Yugto, 17, said she has worked two-to-three jobs at a time on top of being a full-time student just so she can send herself to college and follow her dreams of becoming a photographer and film director.
Medilo spoke during the press conference and pleaded for “dignified wages,” stating that the community is at a crossroads with a choice to “embrace progress,” or “leave the most vulnerable behind.”
Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera was notably one of the only council members to attend the Raise The Wage Renton press conference. During her speech, Rivera challenged Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone to put the minimum wage raise issue on the City Council agenda, letting the council vote on the issue before November. Rivera said she wanted voters to see which council members would vote against a raise to the minimum wage.
In a Jan. 24 meeting with the Renton Reporter, Pavone said he believed the minimum wage raise would not have unanimous support in the city council, but issued this statement in support of an increased minimum wage:
“Philosophically and in practice, I support higher wages for hourly employees. This topic draws in many considerations: affordable housing, workforce development and training infrastructure, transit and transportation, equity for small minority- and women-owned businesses, and more.
We’ve done a good amount thus far on protecting workers and tackling issues around affordability, and along with the Renton City Council, we’ll pursue progressive and effective policies that address the needs of our Renton residents and support the economic health of our community,” Pavone said in the statement.