Seattle’s city council backed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest of any big U.S. city, as the hometown of Starbucks Corp. embarks on an unprecedented experiment to reduce income inequality.
A majority of council members voted for the higher wage, more than double the federal minimum of $7.25, in a committee meeting today, making a full council vote on the measure scheduled for June 2 a formality.
The increase would take effect starting next year, when the required hourly minimum jumps to $11 for Starbucks and other large employers, then escalates to $15 for all businesses by 2021.
Originally a rallying cry of fast-food workers who staged strikes last year, the higher wage has gained momentum in many cities as President Barack Obama’s own proposal for $10.10 is stalled in Congress. Supporters cite evidence of stagnant family wages and academic studies showing the gap between rich and poor at the highest since the 1920s.
“It’s not even paycheck to paycheck anymore, it’s paycheck to pawnshop,” Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to the Seattle council last year, said at today’s meeting.