Bill Lemke: $12 for Tacoma works for nonprofits

Lemke Photo 2Bill Lemke is executive director of NW Furniture Bank, a Tacoma nonprofit that provides furniture to 125 low-income families a month.  He charges a small fee to those families, low enough that it’s not a burden on them financially. But if the city’s minimum wage goes up overnight to $15 an hour, Lemke’s labor costs would go up so much that he’d have to increase the modest fees he charges families. Those families may not be able to afford to use his nonprofit’s services, which means they could find it hard to buy basic furnishings for their homes.

The extreme overnight shift to $15 an hour under Measure 1 doesn’t work for Tacoma, Lemke says. But Measure 1B does. It would increase wages to $12 an hour and give businesses and nonprofits time to prepare. Not only that, but Measure 1B was put on the ballot by an overwhelming majority of the Tacoma City Council and is the result of a collaborative process that brought together Tacoma’s largest employers, small businesses, nonprofits, labor unions and elected officials.

“Measure 1B was the thoughtful way to address income inequality in Tacoma,” Lemke said. “It was the result of community consensus, by getting our community leaders to agree. It’s the minimum wage increase that was done right.”