Edmonds bank raises minimum wage to $15

Decision said to be the result of President Trump’s tax reform
By Brian Soergel | Jan 11, 2018
Vern Woods

Citing President Trump’s tax reform legislation, Peoples Bank – which has a branch in Edmonds – this week announced it will raise the minimum wage to $15 for all hourly employees, effective Feb. 1, and will increase its 401(k) match 1 point to 8 percent for all eligible employees, effective immediately.

The bank – founded in 1921 with headquarters in Bellingham – isn’t the first to raise its minimum wage. Bank of America, also with a branch on Main Street, raised it from $13.50 to $15 in 2017. Wells Fargo, with a branch on Edmonds Way, pays its entry-level employees $13.50 to $17 per hour, depending on qualifications.

This is good news for tellers and personal banking assistants, who are among the lowest-paid workers in the fast-food, home care, retail and food service sectors, according to the National Employment Law Project, which works to create jobs, expand access to work and strengthen protections and support for low-wage workers and the unemployed.

“For three generations, Peoples Bank’s ownership has worked to deliver on its mission to be the highest quality, best managed and most respected community bank in the Pacific Northwest,” said Vern Woods, branch manager of Peoples Bank on Main Street.

“Giving back to our employees through these enhanced benefits and supporting the Edmonds community through local sponsorships are just some of the ways we invest in the communities where our customers and employees live and work.”

Banks, as well as credit unions, are for the most part tight-lipped about revealing salary figures. But, according to job site indeed.com, the average hourly wage for tellers in Washington is $13.80. Many banks, however, start tellers and personal bankers at a lower salary.

Peoples Bank’s wage information also is confidential, but spokeswoman Samara Villasenor said the bank will be evaluating how to minimize “wage compression” for employees who are currently making close to $15 per hour.

The idea, Villasenor said, is to create some wage separation between new employees coming in at $15 per hour and existing employees who are currently at or close to that wage, and making the necessary adjustments for those employees who have put more time in with the bank.

“These new employee benefits reflect our ongoing commitment to doing what is right at every step, and our ‘People Come First’ philosophy, which guides the decisions we make in support of our customers and employees,” Peoples Bank CEO Charles LeCocq said in a statement.

“The new corporate tax reform package is an opportunity to give back to our employees and recognize their hard work and dedication to providing our customers with a full relationship banking experience and exceptional customer service.”

Current minimum wage

Peoples Bank’s new minimum wage is more than twice the federally mandated $7.25 per hour. In Washington state, however, the minimum wage increased 50 cents to $11.50 an hour on Jan. 1. The increase was part of Initiative 1433, which passed in November 2016 and includes annual increases over four years to the state minimum wage, pushing it to $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020.

Initiative 1433 also created the state's new mandatory paid sick leave law, which took effect Jan. 1. Employees will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The law also requires employers to carry over up to 40 hours of an employee's unused sick leave from one year to the next.

Washington state’s $11.50 minimum is the highest of the 50 states, although Washington, D.C.’s is $12.50 an hour. Georgia and Wyoming have the lowest minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, but its workers must be paid the federally mandated wage.

In Seattle, the minimum wage of $15 an hour applies to those who work for companies with more than 501 employees and which pay medical benefits.

Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist in Everett with the Employment Security Department, said minimum wage increases can have a number of different impacts depending on the situation.

“Employers that rely to a great extent on a low-wage workforce, such as restaurants, retail, and agriculture, feel the pinch of legislatively mandated wage increases more than industries that typically employ higher-wage workers,” she said.

“In this case, (Peoples Bank) made the decision to impose a minimum wage on themselves that is higher than the legislated minimum. This makes me think that they are not anticipating adverse effects by this action, and probably anticipate benefits.”

In addition, Vance-Sherman said, while the financial industry does include low-wage workers, it is not dependent on a low wage workforce to the same extent as the restaurant industry, which makes this type of decision less proportionally impactful on the bottom line.

“Furthermore,” she said, “the proportion of low-wage workers in the financial industry has likely been impacted by technological substitutions such as ATMs and online banking.”

The economist noted that the current economic environment is relatively strong, and characterized by a strong labor market.

“During times of economic expansion and strong labor markets, we tend to observe rising wages, as employers compete to bring in new employees or retain talent,” she said.

“Turnover is expensive. Training and onboarding require resources, and entry-level and low-wage work in particular tends to be highly susceptible to wage-driven competition. The higher wage floor could be a strategy by these employers to invest in a stable workforce.”

 

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