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Seattle Council passes $15 minimum wage, highest in nation

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Seattle employees will soon see extra income in their paychecks starting next year now that an ordinance was passed by The Seattle City Council to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Starting April 1, 2015, the city’s minimum wage would be increased gradually over several years, but gives small businesses a slower start to implement the new wage increase.

The wage increase issue had been debated by council members for months.

After Mayor Ed Murray was elected to the council last year, he had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A newly elected socialist City Council member had also pushed the idea too.

However, the ordinance came after recommendations made by an advisor group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Murray. The group deliberated for more than four months before they presented their plan last month to Council.

The current minimum wage in Washington state is $9.32 an hour.

Businesses with over 500 employees nationally will have at least three years to phase in the increase, while those providing health insurance will have four years.

Smaller organizations will be given seven years.

Changes to the minimum wage increase has prompt mixed reactions from local businesses, and some support the measure while a group of restaurant owners oppose it because 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.

San Francisco currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation starting at $10.74 an hour.

Other states have led the pack in increasing the minimum wage like Minnesota did earlier this year raising the state’s guaranteed wage by more than $3 to $9.50 an hour by 2016. California, Connecticut, and Maryland have also passed laws to increase their minimum wage to $10 or more an hour in the years to come.

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