The plan is the product of a committee convened by the mayor,
including labor and business leaders, that spent 16 weeks
negotiating a compromise deal. It must still be approved by
Seattle's City Council before it becomes binding on employers.
Under the terms of the plan, small businesses with fewer than 500
workers must raise wages to a minimum of $15 per hour over the next
seven years. Those with more than 500 workers must meet that level
within three years.
Once the $15 level is reached, further rises will be linked to cost
of living increases, said Murray, a Democrat who took office in
January with a $15 minimum-wage law as one of his administration's
Speaking at a news conference, Murray said the plan shows how
Seattle "can lead the conversation and the nation to address this
growing problem of income inequality."
Seattle is leading the way in a nationwide Democratic-led push to
raise minimum wages. Seattle suburb SeaTac last year approved an
initiative enacting a $15 minimum wage for many workers, although
airport employees were later excluded.
President Barack Obama has pushed Congress to raise the federal
minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25, but has failed to win
the backing of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of
The long lead-in time for implementation of the Seattle wage measure
appears in part to be a compromise to placate businesses that had
wanted to count tips and employer contributions for healthcare
benefits toward the wage target.
Murray's plan gives big businesses that offer healthcare benefits an
extra year — four years instead of three — to meet the wage
benchmark, an issue that has stirred intense debate among employers
in Seattle over the past few months.
Small businesses that provide healthcare or whose workers receive
tips must meet the $15 wage minimum including benefit contributions
and tips within five years. But the basic wage must reach $15 within
seven years. Washington already has the highest minimum wage of any
U.S. State, at $9.32 per hour.
Local labor and business leaders largely presented a united front in
welcoming the plan.
[to top of second column]
"Most of the employer community will be happy with this," said
Howard Wright, chief executive of the Seattle Hospitality Group, who
co-chaired Murray's committee, speaking at the announcement. "We
didn't get everything that we wanted, but neither did anyone else at
David Rolf, local president of the Service Employees International
Union and the other committee co-chair, said the proposal would "put
dollars into the pockets of a huge number of Seattle workers, that
will recirculate through the local economy to produce broadly shared
The OneSeattle Coalition, a group of employers that campaigned for
tips and healthcare benefits to be included in any minimum wage
plan, said its members were reviewing Murray's announcement. The
group may yet file a ballot initiative to go before Seattle voters,
according to a spokesman, which could stall the mayor's plan.
Kshama Sawant, a Seattle City Council member who has helped lead the
push for an immediate, city-wide $15 per hour minimum wage, said
Murray's plan gave too much to employers.
"This proposal does not live up to the wishes of Seattle's workers.
That's why I vote 'No' on this recommendation," Sawant said. She
urged her supporters to keep up pressure on the council.
Proposals to raise the minimum wage have been considered in nearly
three dozen states in 2014, according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures. Increases have been approved in Connecticut,
Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
(Reporting by Bill Rigby; editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernadette
Baum and Mohammad Zargham)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.