The negative effects of Initiative 1433’s wage and paid leave mandates on Washington agriculture

By MADILYNNE CLARK  | 
POLICY BRIEF
|
Oct 25, 2016

Introduction

In November Washington voters will consider Initiative 1433, to raise the mandatory state minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020 and, for the first time, require all employers to give one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, starting in 2018.  Future minimum wage increases would be imposed automatically each year, based on the Seattle-area inflation rate.  The state minimum wage is already indexed to inflation, and is scheduled to increase on January 1st under current law.

Initiative 1433 will have a major effect on jobs and job creation across the state. Washington’s agriculture industry is uniquely situated and will have an extremely difficult time in coping with this mandatory legislation. This summary Policy Note of a larger study on I-1433 looks at how a higher mandated minimum wage, in addition to an unprecedented paid sick-leave, would affect Washington’s farm families and agricultural communities. 

Key Findings

  • Washington currently ranks tenth in total farm labor costs as a portion of sales at 20 percent and third in total amount spent on labor at $1.84 billion.
  • To accommodate the effects of state-imposed costs under Initiative 1433, farmers would have to cut back somewhere else, by reducing work hours, hiring fewer workers, shifting to less labor-intensive crops, and adopting mechanization equipment.  
  • By 2020, the implementation of Initiative 1433 would increase the median agricultural wage by 40 percent to $18.63 and would increase total labor costs to $2.4 billion, ranking Washington highest in total agricultural labor cost for the United States.
  • Mandating paid sick-leave for agricultural laborers would increase food waste, create market loss, and reduce income due to late or incomplete work during pruning and harvest.
  • Small farms, averaging $100,000 to $249,999 in sales, devote a higher portion, 25 percent, to labor. 

Download The negative effects of Initiative 1433’s wage and paid leave mandates on Washington agriculture as a PDF