Seattle Minimum Wage Would Reach $15 in Mayor’s Proposal

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, adopting the rallying cry of fast-food workers, proposed a $15-an-hour minimum wage that would be the highest of any big U.S. city.

The wage would be phased in over three to seven years, with smaller employers getting more time and credit for tips and benefits, Murray said yesterday in a news briefing. After implementation, further increases would be linked to changes in the consumer price index.

“The glue of uniting us together has always been a large middle class,” said Murray, 58, a Democrat elected in November. “Real wages for most U.S. workers have increased little since the 1970s.”

Murray’s proposal is 61 percent more than the present $9.32 hourly minimum wage in Washington state. Restaurants, hotels and other employers have objected to a higher minimum, saying it could raise prices, lead to job losses and force many businesses operating on low profit margins to close.

Fast-food workers across the U.S. staged strikes last year, saying the federal minimum of $7.25 leaves them in poverty. With President Barack Obama’s proposal for an increase to $10.10 stalled, many U.S. cities and states have pushed their own wages higher. San Francisco’s minimum is $10.74, and the city council in Richmond, California, approved an increase to $12.30, according to the National Employment Law Project.

SeaTac, a Seattle suburb, voted in November to raise the hourly minimum to $15 for 6,300 people who work at the region’s international airport and other nearby businesses.

The Seattle mayor’s proposal needs approval by the city council. A group called 15 Now has also been gathering signatures for a potential November ballot initiative that would amend the city’s charter to require a faster phase-in of $15 hourly wages.