Seattle City Council panel OKs $15 minimum wage

SEATTLE — An ordinance that gradually increases the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 an hour was approved Thursday by a City Council committee, setting up a full council vote next week.

In a boisterous meeting, City Council members approved a delay to the implementation of the ordinance, from Jan. 1, 2015 to April 1, 2015. They voted down amendments that would have sped up phase-ins as well as discounting tips from total compensation. The council also approved a sub-minimum wage for teenagers, a provision opposed by labor representatives.

The whole ordinance, even with the contentious amendments, was approved unanimously by the City Council members present.

“Seattle, and other cities, are taking direct action to close our nation’s huge income gap because the federal and state governments have failed to do so. Seattle’s new law opens the way for many workers to earn enough to meet their basic needs. It will raise their standard of living and by putting more dollars into our economy, stimulate greater business opportunities. By significantly raising the minimum wage, Seattle’s prosperity will be shared by more people and create a sustainable model for continued growth,” City Councilman Nick Licata said.

The ordinance came from recommendations made by an advisory group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Mayor Ed Murray. After more than four months of discussion, the group presented its plan earlier this month. Members of the advisory committee urged the City Council to pass the plan as it was presented without changes.

Murray’s plan proposes a phase-in of the wage increase over several years, with a slower process for small businesses. The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years, including a consideration for tips and health-care costs during the first five years of the phase-in process.

The full City Council will vote on the ordinance on Monday, but that may not be the end of the minimum-wage debate in Seattle.

A group called 15 Now is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would amend the city’s charter. Its proposal would create an immediate wage hike for large businesses and a three-year phase-in for organizations with fewer than 250 full-time employees. At the meeting on Thursday, group members said they already had 10,000 signatures. They need more than 30,000 to make it on the ballot.

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