Seattle’s $15 Wage Plan to Boost Families and Businesses

Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette
Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette

The day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a modest minimum wage increase to $10.10, Seattle small business owners with the Main Street Alliance proclaimed their support for a city level $15 minimum wage.

“It is smart and responsible to raise the minimum wage, boost our local economy, and support small business success at the same time,” said Joe Fugere, owner of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, who served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee.

“Main Street Alliance brought a strong small business voice to the process that sought common ground because we know our economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down,” said Fugere. “We recognize that our local economy is stronger when low- and middle-class families have greater economic security and more money to spend.

Small business owners throughout the city voiced support.

“I don’t just have 48 employees, I have 48 families that are depending on me as a small business owner,” said Consuelo Gomez, owner of Marty K. “Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.”

The mayor’s proposal, which has strong support from labor unions, non-profits, and small businesses, still has to be approved by the Seattle City Council. Three council members participated in the mayor’s advisory committee and voted for the plan.

“Seattle, and other cities across the country, are taking the lead to raise wages to match the rising cost of living, helping all families trying to achieve the American dream,” said Pramila Jayapal, an immigrant rights organizer who served on the mayor’s advisory committee.

The $15 minimum wage will phase in gradually, with most low-wage workers in Seattle seeing their wages rise to $15 an hour by 2017 or 2018. Without any changes, minimum wage statewide would by $10.01 in 2017.

“It’s good to provide small businesses time to reap the benefits of increasing consumer demand while transitioning to a $15 wage,” said Fugere.

The plan could still change once in the hands of the city council.

According to research by the Alliance for a Just Society, the actual living wage is Seattle is closer $17.55. Under the mayor’s proposal, Seattle won’t reach that rate until 2023.

Still, Seattle is leading the nation in taking steps toward a minimum wage that is actually a living wage. Congress can’t even agree whether to take a vote on a proposal to raise federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

“You know something’s wrong in Congress when Republicans insist on blocking a modest increase in the minimum wage,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. “Look what we’re doing in Seattle – leading the nation with a $15 minimum wage that will boost the local economy and help small businesses thrive. The economics are simple.

“I sell more ice cream when working families have more money in their pockets to spend,” she said.