Seattle's $15 Wage Campaign Eyes The Ballot

Apr 14, 2014

King County Council Member Larry Gossett and Vote 15 Campaign Manager Jess Spear at launch of charter amendment.
King County Council Member Larry Gossett and Vote 15 Campaign Manager Jess Spear at launch of charter amendment.
Credit KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

A Seattle group seeking a $15 minimum wage has filed paperwork to put the issue to voters. The move aims to increase pressure on Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to pass a measure this year.

A mayor’s advisory committee is already wrestling with a legislative strategy to increase Seattle’s minimum wage but some advocates want a back-up plan. On Monday, 15 Now launched a charter amendment campaign to raise city wages.

During a press conference in a Seattle City Hall lobby, 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 campaign will need to collect more than 30,000 signatures to make the ballot.

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.

Some business owners have said the higher wages could force them to cut staff or close down altogether.

Hilary Stern is director of Casa Latina, a small nonprofit in Seattle. It recently adopted its own $15  minimum wage, which Stern called financially tough, but also necessary.

“It was a one-time hit for us, then we just budgeted it in," Stern said. "It does increase the burden that I have to fundraise more. But other than that, we didn’t have to do any cutbacks.”

The mayor’s advisory committee is due to deliver its recommendations by early May. It's not expected to call for an immediate wage hike.