No Proposal Yet From Mayor's Minimum Wage Committee

Apr 25, 2014

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and his Income Inequaltiy Committee have not yet reached an agreement in raising the minimum wage.

Murray was expected to announce an initial proposal for the City Council at a press conference Thursday afternoon, but said that though the committee had reached an agreement in principle, there was not yet a viable proposal.

Murray is 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. “A simple majority is not good enough for me.”

Murray said he was optimistic that the committee would reach an acceptable consensus in time to present a plan to the City Council to avoid a ballot, or multi-ballot fight. He said an initiative process would bring about a “mini version of class warfare.”

Later, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant responded to Murray's remarks. “We live in a capitalist system, it is class warfare.”

While avoiding specifics, the mayor said that some general guidelines are being discussed in the committee, including if tips and benefits should count toward that wage, the length of time to phase in the increase to $15, and how to treat small versus large businesses.

Sawant said she wants a $15 wage that doesn’t count tips or benefits, or take more than three years to phase in. She said for her, whether that comes out of the mayor’s proposal or a ballot initiative is less important. The group 15 Now is expected to move forward with its ballot initiative this weekend.

If the committee does not reach an agreement, Murray said he will present his own proposal to the City Council. He said he wanted to give the committee more time before taking that step.

“We are in an incredible crisis and I want to address this crisis,” he said. “I want to get to $15.”

Go Before Voters?

15 Now filed paperwork on April 14 to launch a charter amendment and put the issue to voters.

During a press conference in a Seattle City Hall lobby in April, campaign manager Jess Spear said this amendment would appear on the November ballot if the council does not pass a measure this summer.

"If they pass something that’s strong, there’s no need for us to go to the ballot," Spear said. "This is a way for us to keep up the pressure and amplify our demands."

The 15 Now proposal lays out two timelines to raise the minimum wage. For employers with 250 or more workers, the $15 minimum would start next year. At smaller businesses, the higher wage would be phased in over three years.

The campaign will need to collect more than 30,000 signatures to make the ballot.

Liz Jones, Marcie Sillman and Deborah Wang contributed to reporting.