Seattle City Council‘s vote today on a historic plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour could change her life. Phelps, 22, earns $9.47 per hour working for a McDonald’s restaurant near downtown. She wants to move out of her mother’s South Seattle home, and she wants to go back to school. She says those things could happen if Council approves the nation’s highest minimum wage.
Not everyone jumped on board. Craig Dawson, CEO of Retail Lockbox in Seattle, was among those suggesting early on that small and minority businesses would be put at risk by the increase in personnel costs. Compromises were put forward, and a rancorous Council committee meeting last week resulted in some adjustments to the plan that appeared to pave the way for easy passage.
Washington already has the highest state minimum wage at $9.32 an hour, well above the federal minimum of $7.25. The Seattle compromise plan would phase in the higher, local minimum wage over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business and benefits they provide employees.
City officials estimate that about a quarter of workers earn less than $15 an hour. Full-time work at that rate translates to about $31,000 a year. The ordinance was drafted by an advisory group of labor, business and non-profit professionals. In a contentious meeting last week, a City Council committee agreed to delay implementation of the ordinance to next April instead of Jan. 1. They rejected amendments that would have sped up phase-ins and would have excluded tips from total compensation. The committee also approved a sub-minimum wage for teenagers.