As new state rules take effect, most Yakima Valley businesses pay more than $15.74 an hour

New rules regarding a higher minimum wage and better transparency of salary and benefits in job listings took effect this week in Washington, but many employers in the Yakima Valley

As new state rules take effect, most Yakima Valley businesses pay more than $15.74 an hour

New rules requiring a higher minimum wage and more transparency of salary and benefits in job listings took effect this week in Washington, but many employers in the Yakima Valley were already meeting the requirements.That was the consensus of South Central Workforce Development Council officials and others who discussed the new minimum wage and other rules with the Yakima Herald-Republic this week.Washington's minimum wage increased by 8.7% to $15.74 on Jan. 1. The majority of Yakima Valley businesses are paying more than that as they try to attract increasingly hard-to-find workers, said Amy Martinez, CEO of the workforce council.'A lot of employers, even fast food, are above that (new minimum wage),' Martinez said Wednesday.

'There may be a few smaller employers who are not, in areas such as medical assistants and child care.''In manufacturing, (owners) have tried to stay ahead of the minimum wage,' added Travis Piatz, the workforce council's chief financial officer, who previously worked at Tree Top.Jan Luring, co-owner of 12 Yakima Valley-area McDonald's restaurants, said all new employees start off making at least $16 per hour.'It doesn't impact us at all — we've paid above (minimum wage) for a long time,' Luring said Wednesday.'We give more vacation days, and better insurance benefits, than most other people in the fast-food industry,' she added. 'We try to treat people well, and in most of our stores we don't have a labor shortage.'Minimum wage rules and exceptionsMichelle Smith, communications and employment engagement manager with the workforce council, noted that the new minimum wage applies to all employees, including those who receive tips.She referred to the state's department of Labor & Industries website, which states: 'Employers must pay employees the minimum wage for all hours worked as defined by state law. Hours worked includes opening and closing a business, required trainings, and meetings.'Businesses may not use tips and service charges paid to an employee as part of an employee's hourly minimum wage.'While Washington's pay rate of $15.74 is now the highest minimum wage in the country, individual cities can set theirs higher than the state, Smith said.

For example, Seattle and SeaTac have minimum wages of $17.27 and $17.54 per hour, respectively. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is unchanged since 2009.Washington's minimum wage applies to workers ages 16 and older, Smith noted. For younger workers, ages 14 to 15, employers must pay 85% of the minimum wage, or $13.38 per hour, and there are limits to how many hours they can work, especially during the school year.The wage is adjusted each September by L&I, using the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers metric, Smith said. What Yakima workers earnThe workforce council, Yakima Society of Human Resource Management and Yakima County Development Association worked together to fund and conduct a wage and benefit survey last year, with results released in the fall of 2022.While it did not cover all sectors, it included a majority of manufacturing and production jobs, and showed most entry wages and all average hourly wages are higher than the new state minimum wage.For example, in 2022 there were 1,492 general laborer jobs at 18 firms in Yakima County, with an entry hourly wage of $15.68 and average hourly wage of $16.54.There were 910 packers and pickers employed by the five firms participating in the survey, who earned an average entry wage of $14.37 per hour.

The overall average hourly wage among these employees was $21.68 per hour, the survey showed.As workers moved into management positions or took jobs that required specific skills, the survey showed starting pay and average pay increased. For example, the survey showed the following hourly wages:• Materials handler: $16.65 entry, $23.49 average.• Forklift operator: $16.80 entry, $18.74 average.• Welder: $18.58 entry, $22.01 average.• Team leader: $20 entry, $24.37 average.• Plant manager: $22 entry, $29.26 average.'White collar' jobs in accounting, human resources and other office positions all started with $16 per hour or higher entry level wages, with average hourly wages ranging from $17.48 (general office) to $30 (computer programmer).Customer service, logistics and sales jobs also tended to be better than the new state minimum wage, with scale operator ($15 per hour to start) and shipping and receiving clerk ($15.04 entry hourly wage) the lone exceptions among 18 different job titles.Complete results from the 2022 Yakima County Wage and Benefits Survey are available here.Calculating a living wageMartinez and Piatz, executives with the South Central Workforce Development Council, noted that the new state minimum wage just caught up with Yakima County's 'living wage,' which is the hourly rate that individuals must earn to support themselves working full-time.A living wage must pay for typical expenses such as food, medical needs, housing, transportation and taxes, Martinez said. According to the living wage calculator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a single adult with no children in Yakima is $15.61 per hour in 2023, producing a yearly income of $32,469.'We look at the living wage figure a lot when we're talking with employers and recruiting employers to the area with Jonathan Smith and the YCDA,' Martinez added.With the updated Washington state minimum wage, a full-time worker will earn $32,800 annually.Disclosure of pay range, benefitsFinally, a new pay transparency law took effect Jan.

1, making Washington one of seven states nationwide to require employers to disclose wage scales or salary ranges in job postings, rather than waiting until a job offer is made, Piatz said.'All employers with 15 or more employees must meet these requirements,' he said. 'There probably were not that many who weren't posting a pay range (in job advertisements), but this new rule covers all postings, including internal openings.'Piatz said besides the pay range, companies must include a complete list of benefits, vacation time policies and paid holidays under the transparency law.'A lot of potential employees want to know about a company's paid holidays, vacation days and benefits,' Martinez added.Even companies headquartered outside of Washington must comply with these new pay transparency rules for jobs located within the state, Smith said.Officials with the state's L&I department will enforce a legal ruling from New York that disallows vague pay range descriptions such as '$60,000 per year and up' or 'up to $29 an hour,' Smith said, adding that job listings must include a clear salary minimum and maximum.