"A Tale Of Two Washingtons"
Seattle Business And Labor Leaders Reach Compromise For Historic $15 Minimum Wage
Just one day after a minority of 41 Republican Senators prevented a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 from even being debated, Seattle announced a plan to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. The deal, brokered by Mayor Ed Murray and developed by labor leaders, business leaders, restaurateurs, and community groups, epitomizes the stark contrast between the intransigence of one party in the nation’s capital, and the spirit of compromise elsewhere that can lead to real progress.
The $15 minimum wage will be the highest in the nation. It is a demonstration of policy-making that will grow the economy from the middle-out, not the top down. These businesses, community leaders, and labor leaders in Seattle all understand the benefit of raising the minimum wage—it would put more money in the pocket of workers who will turn around and spend that money at businesses large and small. More customers means more jobs and a stronger economy for everyone. Seattle is “showing how we as a city can lead the conversation” for the nation on income inequality, said Mayor Ed Murray.
The new pay floor will phase in at different speeds for businesses of different sizes, but all employers will have to meet the $15 minimum wage by the end of the decade. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide will have a three-year phase-in period, while smaller employers get five years to ratchet up their payscales.
After reaching $15 an hour, the city’s minimum wage will automatically climb by 2.4 percent each year regardless of the rate of inflation. Even among states with relatively strong minimum wage laws, automatic increases are uncommon. Thursday’s deal will make Seattle the national leader on municipal minimum wage laws. Washington currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 per hour.
Like one would expect with any major policy compromise, the deal has been in the works for months and took time to iron out. The Mayor initially pushed for a $15 minimum wage last December, when he created an income inequality advisory group representing to come up with a plan to raise the wage to that level in four months. At certain points in the process the deal looked dead. But yesterday, just an hour before the deadline, the necessary “super-majority” was reached with 21 of the 24 committee members approving the deal.
Seattle, while pushing the largest increase, isn’t the only success story of cities and states taking action to raise the minimum wage while Congress flounders. Here are a few others:
- Hawaii: Voted to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 on April 30th
- Connecticut: Raised its minimum wage to $10.10 on March 27th
- Maryland: Raised its minimum wage to $10.10 on April 7th
- Minnesota: Raised its minimum wage to $9.50 on April 10th
- Washington, DC: Raised its minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016 on January 15th
BOTTOM LINE: Washington, DC can learn a lot from Seattle, Washington. It’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives and start building an economy that works for everyone.