Select Committee on Minimum Wage and
City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle
Historic vote addresses income inequality
SEATTLE - Seattle City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage today, making Seattle the first major city in America to take such an action to address income inequality. Beginning April 1, 2015, the legislation will phase-in a $15 per hour minimum wage annually over 3 to 7 years, depending on employer size.
"Today we answer President Obama's call and the moral call to address the plight of low wage workers," said Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the City Council's Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality. "Seattle's new law puts low wage workers on a path to $15 and does it in a way that respects Seattle's love for local businesses and world-leading innovation."
Twenty-four percent of Seattle workers earn hourly wages of $15 per hour or less, and approximately 13.6 percent of the Seattle community lives below the federal poverty level, according to a University of Washington study. Washington State's minimum wage is currently $9.32 per hour. Effective April 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Seattle will be $10.00 or $11.00 per hour depending on employer size. A chart illustrating the subsequent annual minimum wage increase based on employer size is available here.
"With inaction at the state and national levels, it's time for cities to demonstrate bold and necessary leadership to address income inequality," said Council President Tim Burgess. "Seattle has found a workable and careful compromise that recognizes both the harm caused by stagnant wages and the harm to local businesses should we move forward too quickly."
Mayor Ed Murray forwarded a proposal to the City Council after it had been developed by a stakeholder group, which included representatives of Seattle's business, labor and non-profit communities and three councilmembers. The Seattle City Council, reviewed relevant studies, held public forums for feedback, hosted industry-specific discussions, considered the Mayor's proposal and heard thousands of community comments over the first half of 2014.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, "In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 'The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.' Today, we have made true progress so people can work and live in our city."
"Today is an unprecedented step forward for working families in Seattle," said Councilmember Jean Godden. "Especially for women who tend to make up more than half of low wage workers, a higher minimum wage is a powerful tool to reduce income inequality based on gender."
"This is a historic moment: the culmination of workers banding together over a year ago to raise the national debate on income inequality. Seattle listened and today, we are acting to help workers earn a living wage," said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. "This is one of the most important race and social justice-related legislation enacted, most positively impacting people of color, women and immigrants. We must continue working with small businesses and the ethnic minority community to support their growth and help them succeed."
"Council's next critical step is to legislate the enforcement of this new law with the creation of an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement," said Councilmember Nick Licata. "Responsible businesses who follow the law must not be at a competitive disadvantage with those businesses not administering fair labor practices."
"I am honored to cast my vote today in support of the tens of thousands of working people in Seattle who are about to get a much needed raise," said Councilmember Mike O'Brien. "Almost a year ago to the day, I escorted fast food workers back to their jobs to ensure they would not face retaliation for striking for better pay, and thanks to the movement they started we are making history today."
"This legislation sends a message heard around the world: Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages and that we deplore the growth in income inequality and the widening gap between the rich and the poor," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.
"This is a victory for our movement - it shows the power of working people when we organize and fight for our rights," said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. "It will inspire millions of people all over the nation to build on this historic step forward. Fifteen in Seattle is just the beginning."
The legislation will take effect thirty days after Mayor Ed Murray signs the legislation into law. Seattle has a population of approximately 634,535 in 2012, according to the United States Census and is approximately 84 square miles in land area.