On New Year’s Day, Alaska’s minimum wage workforce gained a $1 pay raise to $9.75 an hour becoming the fourth highest rate in the nation behind Washington D.C. ($10.50), Massachusetts ($10.00) and California ($10.00). This will impact some 12,000 workers who received less than $9.75 in 2015, according to Alaska Department of Labor estimates.
“This is great news for low wage workers who struggle to make ends meet in Alaska,” said Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas, in a release. “This increase will help thousands of Alaskan families pay for housing, food, and other necessities.” The average minimum wage worker on a full-time schedule should expect to see an extra $2,000 in their bank account this year.
The annual increases were initially sparked through Ballot Measure 3 overwhelmingly supported with a 69.35% voter approval in November 2014.
The measure took form in February 2015 by lifting pay from $7.75 to $8.75. Minimum pay rates will continue upwards on an annual basis adjusting for inflation while also remaining $1 above the federal minimum wage currently set at $7.25. Tips do not count towards the minimum.
“This long-overdue increase in the minimum wage did not happen on its own,” said Commissioner Drygas.
“Hundreds of Alaskans put an incredible amount of time and effort into getting this issue on the ballot. Thank you to all the Alaskans who worked hard to see this initiative pass.” And while the wages in Alaska are on the rise one business with local roots is challenging increases near Seattle.
At SeaTac Airport in Washington, Alaska Airlines is fighting a battle against an already in-effect adjustment that sets the base for the hub at $15.00 an hour. The Puget Sound Business Journal (paywall) explains how the court challenge is progressing:
“We believe that the trial court judge should hold a fact-finding process so she can ultimately decide whether the ordinance interferes with or relates to airport operations,” said Herman Wacker, vice president legal and general counsel for Alaska Airlines, in a statement.
If such a lower court fact-finding investigation did find that the minimum wage was interfering with the airport, this would require the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, Alaska Air and the other businesses say.
Alaska Airlines has said that the higher minimum wage is a competitive disadvantage, because the majority of its workers are at Sea-Tac, while that’s not the case for its primary competitor Delta Air Lines.
Alaska Airlines employs nearly 12,000 workers, and utilizes SeaTac airport as the businesses’ main hub, according to a July 2015 company facts sheet.
A summary of the Alaska Wage and Hour Act is featured below: