Moral Low Ground


On May Day, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Announces Plan for $15/Hour Minimum Wage

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces his minimum wage increase plan at City Hall on May 1. (Photo: Seattle Mayor's Office)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces his minimum wage increase plan at City Hall on May 1. (Photo: Seattle Mayor’s Office)

Seattle’s progressive mayor used May 1, International Workers’ Day, as an opportunity to unveil a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and above in the coming years.

Under Mayor Ed Murray’s plan, businesses with at least 500 employees nationwide would have at least three years to implement the increase. Companies providing health insurance to their workers would have at least four years to phase in the raise. Smaller businesses would have as many as seven years to increase to $15, and there is a special consideration for tips and health care costs over the first five years.

Murray’s plan does not stop there. Once $15 per hour is reached, future increases will be tied to the consumer price index, with some experts forecasting a minimum wage as high as $18 per hour by 2025.

“Seattle workers are getting a raise,” Murray declared after finalizing the deal, which 21 of the 25 members of his minimum wage task force reportedly approved. “Throughout this process, I’ve had two goals: to get Seattle’s low-wage workers to $15 per hour while also supporting our employers, and to avoid a costly battle at the ballot box between competing initiatives. We have a deal that I believe accomplishes both goals.”

“I think that this is an historic moment for the city of Seattle,” the mayor added. “We’re going to decrease the poverty rate.”

Seattle $15 minimum wage

But not all progressives are happy with the mayor’s plan. City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party, expressed her disapproval on the website of 15 Now, which is fighting for an immediate increase to $15 per hour.

“I don’t support phasing in for big business,” wrote Sawant. “McDonald’s and Starbucks have no justification for keeping their workers in poverty a day longer. For workers in Seattle, 11 years is a very long time to wait for a decent wage. Every year of a phase-in is another year of poverty for workers.”

Sawant said she would march with demonstrators at a May 1 International Worker’s Day (May Day) rally promoting an immediate minimum wage increase to $15. Thousands of protesters are expected to participate despite a heat wave, KOMO reports.

Labor union leaders were more enthusiastic about the mayor’s plan.

“Raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 reaches far beyond the 100,000 workers who will benefit within the city limits,” David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, told the Associated Press. “Today, Seattle workers send a clarion call to all working people in America.”

Many local business leaders are alarmed by the looming minimum wage hike, claiming it will harm their bottom lines and force some to close. The Broadway Business Owners Association (BBOA), which represents Capitol Hill merchants, wrote a letter to the mayor telling him why they opposed the move.

“If the $15 minimum wage is enacted, we would go out of business immediately and all our 25 permanent staff would be out of a job,” commented Niz Marar, owner of Wild West Trading Co. “It’s that simple.”

At $9.32, Washington state already has the nation’s highest minimum wage, although a handful of states have moved to increase theirs to $10 or above. On Wednesday, Hawaii became the third state to approve a $10.10 minimum wage.

Earlier this year, the Seattle suburb of SeaTac, population 27,700, became the first city in the United States to enact a $15 minimum wage.

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, a move endorsed by President Barack Obama, on Wednesday.

“They’re fighting for the billionaires, we’re fighting for people who are struggling to make a living,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) following the Republican rejection.

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