Hundreds of people descended on Seattle's Town Hall last night for the first in a series of public hearings on the minimum wage.
The hearings were convened by the Seattle City Council, which will likely consider a minimum wage proposal this spring.
The testimony, which lasted well into the evening, was heavily in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Wearing bright red shirts, members of the group 15 Now packed the audience. They argued for an immediate minimum wage increase, with no exceptions.
"A $15 an hour minimum wage is pragmatic. It would lift 100,000 people out of poverty in Seattle," said Calvin Priest, a member of 15 Now. "That's 100,000 workers and their families — workers who are working hard every day to make things work in this city."
But some small business owners and their employees said such an increase would lead to lay-offs, benefit cuts and higher prices.
"What happens if we pass a SeaTac style, 60 percent, automatic increase in the minimum wage? Simple. I lose my job," said J.W. Boswell, a sommelier at a Seattle restaurant. "Our restaurant has a 3 percent profit margin. How are we supposed to survive a 60 percent increase in labor?"
Mayor Ed Murray has convened an Income Inequality Advisory Committee to draft a proposal to raise the minimum wage. The mayor is expected to give his proposal to the City Council at the end of April.