Seattle’s minimum wage could increase to $18.13 an hour within the next decade, according to Mayor Ed Murray's office.
Speaking at Town Hall on Thursday, Murray said that large businesses would have to pay their employees $15 an hour in three years.
Small businesses – those with fewer than 500 employees – would have seven years to reach a $15 an hour wage. In the first five years, benefits such as tips and health insurance would be included in the total wage.
Larger businesses must reach $15 in three years if they aren’t providing health care for their employees. Those that do have four years to phase in $15.
No industry or class of business will be exempt, including nonprofits.
Murray said the proposal generated by his minimum wage advisory committee would make the city an “incubator of democracy” for other communities grappling with changing their minimum wage.
“It’s a bold move, especially on International Workers’ Day,” said news analyst Joni Balter. “It’s inclusive, it’s detailed – it’ no slogan. It’s very nuanced.”
Balter said that the collaborative approach to the mayor’s proposal may prevent an initiative battle because it has the support of labor and immigrant groups.
“The mayor has on board the very people who would pay for signature gathering and a campaign,” Balter said.
The announcement comes a week after Murray said the committee exploring the issue hadn’t come to an agreement.
In that press conference, Murray said he was looking for a super majority of at least a 60 percent before moving forward. “I think it’s important because otherwise I think the situation will fall apart on us,” Murray said at the time. “A simple majority is not good enough for me.”
He achieved that goal, saying that 21 of the 25 members of his Income Inequality Advisory Committee agreed to the proposal.
Increasing the minimum wage gained popularity in the last year – locally as the City of SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage for airport workers, and nationally as fast food workers marched for higher wages.
President Barack Obama has said he supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. And Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council’s first socialist, campaigned on a $15 minimum wage.
Following Thursday’s announcement, Sawant dismissed the proposal as “watered down.”
“The public has lost the battle on 15,” she said. “I don’t support a phase-in.”
She called for a signature collection, should the city council vote down the mayor’s proposal, to “let the council know we are watching.”