Seattle Steps Closer To Setting Highest Minimum Wage In U.S.

May 30, 2014

Supporters of Mayor Murray's proposed $15 minimum wage packed a committee as council members discuss amendments to the plan. In the end, the committee unanimously passed the proposal.
Supporters of Mayor Murray's proposed $15 minimum wage packed a committee as council members discuss amendments to the plan. In the end, the committee unanimously passed the proposal.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

It was standing room only at Seattle’s city hall on Thursday, as councilmembers made changes to a minimum wage proposal. This signals that Seattle is poised to be the first city to pass a $15 minimum wage, the highest in the country.

The committee unanimously approved the plan, which goes to the full council on Monday for a final vote.

Rachelle Parsloe, a counselor at a homeless shelter downtown, was among those who watched the committee deliberate.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “It looks like the $15 minimum wage is moving forward.”

Parsloe said a higher wage would help her. She has $30,000 in student loans and earns $11.60 an hour.

“I’m even above the minimum wage, but living in Seattle, I don’t make enough money to save up, to pay back my loans,” she said.

Parsloe wants to eventually pursue a graduate degree and hopes the additional income will help. But she’ll have to wait a little longer before she sees any raise. The committee voted to delay the start date to April 2015.  

Councilmember Sally Clark, who proposed the amendment, said she wants to give everyone enough time to get ready for change.

“I really want this to be successful, and in order to be successful the city needs time, employers need time, and employees, we need to talk with employees about here’s what you can expect,” she said.

Clark said delaying implementation would especially help if there’s a ballot initiative. The group 15now is collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot this fall with a different plan. Under the mayor’s proposal it would take several years to get to $15. But the 15now plan wants to get there by January 2015.  

No matter when the minimum wage takes effect, large businesses would be the first to have to comply.

David Jones, who owns two franchise sandwich shops, said that’s unfair. Under the council proposal, franchises like his would be treated like big corporations with multiple locations and scores of employees.  

“We are three employees, nine employees, twelve employees,” Jones said. “To call us big business is really ridiculous.”

Jones says he would have no choice but to raise prices.