After Raucous Session, Seattle City Council Raises Minimum Wage to $15

Jun 3, 2014

Seattle has become the first city in the country to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage. The City Council voted Monday to enact the new law, which was the result of months of negotiations.

It represents a 60 percent increase from the current state minimum wage, which at $9.32 an hour is the highest in the country.

Proponents say it’s a first step towards closing the rising income gap between rich and poor. Some businesses say they will go to court to fight it. KUOW’s Deborah Wang reports.

Supporters of the 15 dollar an hour wage packed the Council chambers on Monday, and they made their displeasure known when a number of worker-friendly amendments went down to defeat.

"Raise your hands, let's see who said what!"

But in the end, the council voted unanimously to pass the minimum wage hike, and the room erupted in cheers.

"Nine in favor, none opposed."

The vote was a victory for the city’s mayor, Ed Murray, who launched the process back in January.

And for Socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She was elected last November on a $15 an hour platform. She and her supporters have been vocal proponents.

Sawant: "Today’s message is clear. If we organize as workers, as a labor movement with a socialist strategy we can tackle the chasm of income inequality and social injustice."

The ordinance was the result of months of negotiations between representatives of business and labor.

It phases in a $15 an hour wage over three years for big businesses. Smaller businesses have almost seven years to reach the new wage. But not all businesses are on board.

Under the law, franchises, even small ones, are regarded as big businesses, because of their ties to national chains.

Steve Caldeira is the President of the International Franchise Association. He says the group is preparing to sue.

Caldeira: "If the level playing field was there, then we would not sue, but the fact of the matter is its not, and we are here to protect small business franchise owners here in Seattle."

On the other side, Kshama Sawant’s supporters have been advocating for an even more aggressive minimum wage hike.

Her group, 15 NOW, hasn’t yet decided if it will continue to try to put that plan before voters in November.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network