Skip to main content
King County logo


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Providing path to the American Dream: Council gives support to living wage


Ordinance will apply to companies and non-profits contracting with King County


At the beginning of this year, the Metropolitan King County Council started exploring steps toward developing living wage guidelines within the County. Today, the Council gave its approval to legislation establishing the County’s first-ever living wage policy, covering County employees as well as businesses, non-profits, and other entities that do business with the County.

“We must clear away the hurdles between our residents and the promise of America, and a good-paying job is the best means to that end,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This living wage policy will help many residents rise out of the ranks of the working poor and cross the threshold of the American Dream.”

“Our nation’s economic recovery must benefit all working Americans – not just the fortunate and wealthy. Income inequality is one of the great unattended issues of our time, and our action today begins to address this pressing matter,” said Larry Phillips, Council Chair. “The ordinance ensures King County contractually supports businesses providing a base wage that allows a working family in King County to pay its bills. Our society is stronger when everyone is enabled to work hard and be compensated fairly so they can pay their way.

“Today's vote reaffirms the Council's commitment to equity and social justice,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “This Living Wage Ordinance is a positive step toward providing the marginalized members of our community including the working poor an escape from the vicious cycle of poverty.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine continues to be committed to providing those working for the county a living wage. Since July of this year, all County—with very limited exceptions, such as some County internships—are receiving a wage of at least $15 an hour.

“Overcoming the growing inequality in our region requires a comprehensive approach including access to health care, education, job training, transportation, and more,” said Executive Constantine. “Ensuring that those doing business with the County provide their employees a living wage is a critical part of that approach."

The ordinance goes a step further by requiring that not only all county employees, but the employees of contractors who provide services through contracts of $100,000 or more to the County to be paid a living wage.

The ordinance sets compensation levels and phase-in periods for large and small employers and takes into account whether the employer offers health benefits, similar to the new City of Seattle minimum wage law.

“Working people across King County have been left behind by employers that fail to keep the promise that a day's work will lead to success,” said SEIU Healthcare 775NW President David Rolf. “When government lifts wages to a living wage, everyone benefits. Workers are able to feed their families, pay rent and save; and local businesses make more because the workers have money to spend. That’s why SEIU members across the state and around the country are supporting these kinds of living wage efforts and we applaud Councilmember Dembowski for his leadership in passing this legislation.”

“From the Roosevelt years forward, history has shown that sometimes government must take a bold step and “do the right thing” to strengthen the economy and promote equity and social justice, said Dustin Frederick, Business Manager for the Public Safety Employees Union Local 519. “Extending the “living wage” philosophy to the private sector is a testament to the elected leadership of King County and their commitment to judiciously utilize the tools of government to bring some measure of prosperity to everyone, not just public employees over whom they have direct control.”

“When workers are making living wages, they can infuse their earnings into our economy. This is a sure way to create jobs,” said Gerald Hankerson, Director of Main Street Alliance of Washington, an organization working to give small businesses a voice that promotes vibrant businesses and healthy communities. “Living wages are a form of economic stimulus, in a time when struggling families desperately need a stronger economy. Small business owners know living wages are good for business.”

Contact the Council
Main phone: