The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Seattle mayor Ed Murray had promised, during last year’s campaign for office, that he would raise the minimum wage to $15. He kept his promise yesterday, June 2, 2014, passing the wage ordinance in front of a packed city council chambers. Murray was assisted by a very progressive city council, including recently elected socialist Kshama Sawant.
"We did it. Workers did this," said Sawant. "We need to continue to build an even more powerful movement."
Fellow council member Tom Rasmussen echoed Sawant’s enthusiasm, saying that "Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages" and the city should address the "widening gap between the rich and the poor."
The $15 per hour minimum wage would take effect on April 15, 2015 and would take several years to implement completely. Businesses with more than 500 employees will have three years to completely phase in the increase. Businesses that presently offer health insurance will have an additional year to comply and companies with fewer than 500 employees would have seven years to reach the $15 level.
Labor organizations applaud the higher wages, but not everyone is jumping for joy. One group strongly opposed to the increase is the International Franchise Association, an organization that represents franchised businesses. It says it plans to sue to halt the increase.
“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," said the International Franchise Group in a statement release.
At present, San Francisco has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $10.74 per hour. Washington state has a minimum wage of $9.32 per hour and Minnesota has passed legislation to raise its minimum wage to $9.50 per hour. In the coming years, California, Connecticut, and Maryland will top them all with a $10 an hour minimum wage.
Barring any successful lawsuits or other legal actions against the minimum wage increase, Seattle can expect its $15 minimum wage to become the law of the land in less than one year.