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Seattle raises minimum wage; will others follow?

By Donna Gordon Blankinship

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:25 a.m. HST, Jun 03, 2014


SEATTLE >> Seattle activists celebrated a successful campaign to gradually increase the city's minimum wage to $15 by calling for a national movement to close the income and opportunity gaps between rich and poor.

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that would give the city the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant, who after the council meeting called on the people of America to elect more independent and socialist candidates, said the push for a higher minimum wage is spreading across the nation.

"Seattle may be a hippie city. We may wear socks with our sandals," but it's also a city where different progressive groups can work together to bring about change, Sawant said.

The minimum wage issue has dominated politics in the liberal municipality for months, and a boisterous crowd of mostly labor activists packed the council chambers for the vote. They held signs that said "15 Now," chanted, cheered and occasionally jeered when amendments they favored were voted down.

Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as did Sawant in her campaign last year.

"We did it. Workers did this," she said. "We need to continue to build an even more powerful movement."

Council Member Tom Rasmussen said, "Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages" and address the "widening gap between the rich and the poor."

The International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based business group that represents franchise owners, said it plans to sue to stop the ordinance.

"The City Council's action today is unfair, discriminatory and a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small franchise business owners," the group said in a statement.

The measure, which would take effect on April 1, 2015, includes a phase-in of the wage increase over several years, with a slower process for small businesses. The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years.

The ordinance came from recommendations made by an advisory group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Murray. After more than four months of discussion, the group presented its plan last month. Last week the council delayed implementation by the few months and approved a sub-minimum wage for teenagers, a provision opposed by labor representatives.

San Francisco currently has the nation's highest hourly minimum wage at $10.74. The current minimum wage in Washington state is $9.32 an hour.

Earlier this year, Minnesota raised the state's guaranteed wage by more than $3, to $9.50, by 2016. California, Connecticut and Maryland also have passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years.

Although some local businesses have come out in support of the Seattle measure, a group of restaurant owners oppose it, saying it would force them to scuttle expansion plans, decrease hiring and possibly cut service hours.

Nick Musser, executive chef and general manager of the Icon Grill in downtown Seattle, doesn't think the wage credit for tips should phase out after seven years and finds the differentiation between large and big companies irrelevant.

"The reality is that the larger companies are going to ratchet up their wages and we're going to have to play at that level anyway," said Musser, whose restaurant employs between 50 and 60 people, depending on the time of year. Most of them are paid minimum wage.

Council Member Nick Licata and others spoke of the work and compromise it took to come up with an agreement that could pass the council.

"Others must follow and I hope that they do. But it's not an easy road to go down," Licata said.

Ubah Aden, 40, a Seattle home health worker who says she now earns $10.95 an hour, is looking forward to the way a higher wage will help her support her three children. But she also likes the idea of Seattle setting an example for the rest of the nation.

"If this passes, then it will pave the way for other cities and states. I really think so," Aden said.





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Seattle council passes $15 minimum wage




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serious wrote:
Sounds great minimum $15/hr, but consider the minimum wage jobs include fast food restaurants and grocery stores, who is it going to hurt?
on June 3,2014 | 06:09AM
honokai wrote:
Should improve sales at Costco. And it won't affect their labor costs.
on June 3,2014 | 06:15AM
soundofreason wrote:
Valid observation. And the winners win more and the losers (other employees of loser companies) scrounge to find a job that hire's losers (people who try to LIVE on minimum wage) as those who USED to hire them.............close. See, this all going to work out fine :/ And the workers GOT what they wanted and will come to realize that they can't AFFORD any more help from the govt. And govt should have been strong enough to tell the kids that they can't have candy for dinner....without a price.
on June 3,2014 | 07:35AM
fbg wrote:
Inflation, or unemployment. Lay your bets down.
on June 3,2014 | 06:57AM
soundofreason wrote:
I'll put $25 on BOTH.
on June 3,2014 | 07:08AM
loquaciousone wrote:
We win....we win.....huh......look for work.......why....since when......yesterday.....oh..
on June 3,2014 | 07:01AM
Anonymous wrote:
WA state, no state income tax either, but sales tax might be high. Minimum wage employees might not be able to quality for Welfare anymore. Now they will have more to spend and help the economy.
on June 3,2014 | 07:03AM
st1d wrote:
detroit, seattle, modern ghost towns in the making.
on June 3,2014 | 07:08AM
9ronboz wrote:
Disaster to follow
on June 3,2014 | 07:15AM
phyllum69 wrote:
Agreed.
on June 3,2014 | 10:25AM
eastside808 wrote:
We should see quality of service rise in Seattle since being just a high school graduate may not be enough to work at Burger King, McDonalds, etc. It will certainly place a premium on getting a better education than just high school. As an employer having to pay $15/hr I will expect more from my future hires. Lets see how many businesses in Seattle will survive.
on June 3,2014 | 07:28AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Socialism has yet to work in the long-term. In theory it sounds great. Everybody equal working together and sharing the rewards. In practice it fails because people aren't all the same. Some are willing to work much harder than others and some are lazy. In our country social programs have created a culture of people who want all of the rewards of success but don't want to put in the time and effort. IMO, equal opportunity doesn't mean equal pay. It means we all have a chance through hard work and yes some luck to achieve success. Countries like the USSR, Cuba, North Korea and China tried socialism and their economies stagnated. Russia and China modified their systems to allow for entrepreneurism and their economies have soared. These people and legislators in Seattle think they've made a lasting achievement but I'm quite sure they will not see any lasting benefit as the false economy they've created will modify itself to the point where they will end up in the same position they started in in a few years. They better enjoy it while it lasts.
on June 3,2014 | 07:41AM
Maipono wrote:
San Francisco is a very expensive place to visit, and soon Seattle will be as well. The low wage worker will have a difficult time finding work and will look at alternatives, like crime, which is happening right now in Seattle. Socialist don't really worry about that since it's the poor stealing from the rich.
on June 3,2014 | 08:09AM
Winston wrote:
Interesting experiment in social engineering for the benefit of 2-3% of the population who work at that level, the majority of whom do so temporarily until, through promotion or completed education, lift themselves higher.

What will this achieve? There will definitely be fewer entry level jobs. Automation at the bottom end of the economy will increase. Businesses forced to increase their compensation structure to accommodate the higher bottom rung will raise prices/lose customers.

Overall, probably a net loss, but the Seattle socialist will feel good about themselves.


on June 3,2014 | 08:30AM
Ronin006 wrote:
I wonder what Kshama Sawant and the other pinko camp followers on the Seattle City Council will say when MacDonald's, Burger King and other fast food restaurants double their prices to cover the doubling of the minimum wage.
on June 3,2014 | 09:35AM
vernonokada wrote:
Why stop at $15? Why not $1500/hr so we can all live like Bill Gates? Socialist idiots.
on June 3,2014 | 12:07PM
Anonymous wrote:
Go for it, at $15 an hour they will narrow the gap between living in poverty and real poverty.
on June 3,2014 | 05:34PM
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