Updated: 5:25 p.m. Thursday, May 1, 2014 | Posted: 11:34 a.m. Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mayor Murray announces $15 minimum wage proposal

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$15 minimum wage table photo
Proposed Seattle minimum wage
Mayor Ed Murray photo
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

SEATTLE —

After failing to reach an agreement on raising Seattle's minimum wage to $15 a week ago, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced his proposal.

Instead of immediately switching the minimum wage in the city to $15, as expected, Murray proposed a phased-in plan.

“We're going to reduce the poverty rate in this city by raising the minimum wage,” Murray said at a news conference Thursday.

Under Murray's plan, businesses with fewer than 500 employees must pay workers $15 an hour within seven years.  Within the first five years, a “temporary compensation responsibility “ of $15 an hour must be met by combining employer-paid health care contributions, tips received by consumers, and wages.

Large businesses with more than 500 employees will have three years to pay workers $15 an hour.  The wages of employees who receive health care benefits will receive $15 an hour in four years.

"This a historic moment for Seattle," Murray said.  "In seven years, a Seattle minimum wage worker will earn at least $4 an hour and $6,240 a year more than people elsewhere in Washington."

Once $15 an hour is reached, future raises would be tied to the consumer price index, with no exemptions.

A news release from the mayor's office said 21 of 24 members of his Income Inequality Committee support his proposal.

The committee, an advisory group of business, labor, nonprofit and other representatives formed in December, was unable to reach an agreement to present to the mayor last week.

"McDonald's and Starbucks have no justification to keep their workers in poverty a day longer," Sawant said.

She said she supported the decision by the group 15 Now to continue gathering signatures for a ballot measure. 

While Sawant was defiant, other progressive groups praised the mayor's deal. 

Sage Wilson, who has organized events on behalf of low-wage workers for the union-backed group Working Washington, called the deal an "extraordinary accomplishment." 

"It's good for everyone and this is an agreement that reflects that because everyone is on board," Wilson said. 

Activist Pramila Jayapal, former leader of the group One America and a member of the mayor's task force, said: "It's not the deal we would have written but I think in the end you have to ask, 'Is this going to benefit the workers of Seattle and is this the best deal we could get?'"

"Politics is the art of the possible," Jayapal said. "It's our job as activists to push the limits of what's possible and I believe we did that."

Murray has faced a slew of options. Businesses were pushing for a phase-in, with credit for tips and health care benefits, while other groups pushed for an immediate wage hike on big employers and a limited phase-in for small and midsize businesses.

If the proposal is approved, the wage would be the highest of any major city in the nation.

“Now, this is not in my opinion an ideal proposal, but ideals only exist in our dreams not reality,” said City Councilmember Nick Licata, who served on the committee.

The City Council’s Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality will begin its review of Murray's proposal on Monday afternoon.

The tentative review schedule for the proposed legislation is listed below.  All meetings will take place in City Council Chambers, 600 Fourth Avenue, second floor, unless otherwise noted.  All meetings will be open to the public.  Twenty minutes will be allotted for public comment at all committee meetings.  The Council accepts written public comments at any time.

  • Mon., May 5, 2:30 p.m.
  • Wed., May 7, 12 p.m.
  • Tues., May 13, 6 p.m. – Rainier Beach High School
  • Thurs., May 15, 9:30 a.m.
  • Thurs., May 22, 12 p.m.
  • Thurs., May 29, 9:30 a.m.

 Additional meetings  will be held as needed.

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