In a decade, Seattle’s minimum wage workers would be making double what they are today, under a plan announced this morning by Mayor Ed Murray.
Murray’s plan calls for the city’s minimum wage to climb to $15 an hour, phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of business and whether workers receive tips or benefits in addition to salary. After that, the wage would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, with estimates showing it rising above $18 an hour by 2025. Current minimum wage is $9.32 per hour.
The deal was finalized Wednesday night, after Murray returned from a study mission with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to New York City.
“Once again Seattle has chosen to collaborate and Seattle workers are going to get a raise,” Murray said at a morning news conference.
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Murray said 21 of the 24 members on the committee he assembled to create the proposal have agreed, indicating broad support. He thanked his committee members for taking risks and showing courage. “I believe they are going to move this city forward,” he said.
The agreement defines small business as 500 employees or fewer. Large businesses with more than 500 workers will have to pay workers $15 by 2017 if they don’t also receive health care. In that case, they get an extra year.
Fewer than 1 percent of businesses in the city have more than 500 workers, but those businesses employ about 30,000 workers, or about a third of those now making less than $15 an hour, according to a study for the city by the Evans School at the University of Washington.
Small businesses will have until 2019 to reach $15 an hour if they do not offer health care or tips. All other small businesses will have to pay $15 an hour by 2021. There are no exemptions for certain industries, organizations or class of employees.
The long phase-in for some businesses and the definition of small business has already been denounced by 15 Now activists who promote their initiative effort as a “real $15.” Activists on Saturday voted to go forward with signature-gathering to place a measure on the November ballot.
The plan announced by Murray this morning falls short of the wishes of “15 Now,” an organization urging adoption of a $15-per-hour minimum wage. The organization held its first national conference Saturday at Franklin High School. With more than 250 people in attendance, it voted to begin a signature-gathering campaign that could result in a ballot measure to amend the Seattle City Charter.
The charter amendment backed by “15 Now” would have no phase-in for big businesses, requiring them to start paying $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015.
Murray, though, said he expected the deal would avoid competing minimum-wage initiatives on the November ballot. He said he doesn’t expect business group OneSeattle to move forward with an initiative.
David Rolf, co-chair of the mayor’s committee and president of SEIU 775, said the deal involved a lot of compromise on both sides, and he thanked the business leaders for their creativity in helping make it happen. He said the fast-food workers who went on strike last year were the real leaders who got the minimum-wage conversation started.
The agreement will now move to the City Council, which will be tasked with creating an ordinance.
“Now we have to act,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, also a member of the mayor’s committee. “I will work with my colleagues to pass this proposal with the minimum amount of tinkering possible. The council and all of us, I believe, have to embrace this spirit of cooperation. We cannot tear it apart.”
Members of Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee are:
- David Rolf (co-chair), SEIU 775
- Howard Wright (co-chair), Seattle Hospitality Group
- Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
- Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell
- Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant
- Janet Ali, Nucor Steel
- Sarah Cherin, UFCW 21
- Maud Daudon, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
- Craig Dawson, Retail Lockbox
- Bob Donegan, Ivar’s Restaurant
- David Freiboth, Dr. Martin Luther King County Labor Council
- Joe Fugere, Tutta Bella
- Audrey Haberman, Philanthropy Northwest
- Nick Hanauer, Second Avenue Partners
- Pramila Jayapal, Center for Community Change
- Eric Liu, Citizen University
- Gordon McHenry, Solid Ground
- Dave Meinert, Onto Entertainment
- Craig Schafer, Hotel Andra
- Diane Sosne, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
- Nicole Vallestero Keenan, Puget Sound Sage
- David Watkins, Seattle Hotel Association
- Michael Wells, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce
- Ronald Wilkowski, Financial Services
Daudon, Dawson and Sawant were the three members who did not sign on with the agreement, Murray said.