Efforts to set $15-hour minimum wage gain steam in Seattle

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Kshama Sawant on Tuesday called 2014 the year of the $15 minimum wage in Seattle.

But how that goal might be reached is anyone’s guess. Already Seattle City Council member-elect Sawant’s planned minimum-wage hike — the centerpiece of her campaign — is joined by at least two other plans to do the same.

Mayor-elect Ed Murray has called a news conference Thursday in which he is expected to name a stakeholder committee to write legislation he could propose to the City Council within six months.

And a pro-business group filed its own $15 minimum-wage initiative with the Seattle city clerk last week. Initiative 104, which will require about 21,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, also would slash business taxes.

Passing a higher minimum wage next year could depend on whether those plans compete, or if local leaders are able to come up with one that satisfies all proponents.

Sawant, at a City Hall news conference Tuesday, said she planned to collaborate with labor, community groups and other city leaders to craft a proposal but pledged to keep the needs of low-wage workers at the center of the debate.

“We’re talking to the working people of Seattle. They have the most at stake,” said the new socialist council member, flanked by labor, fast-food, social-justice and church activists who were outnumbered by the media.

Sawant’s remarks held out the possibility that city leaders, including Murray and the City Council, could agree on the details of a minimum-wage proposal and avert a costly and potentially divisive fight over a ballot measure in November.

She said she would wait until January to release details of her proposal but cautioned that she and other activists “have a bottom line” of all workers having a $15 minimum wage “in the near future.”

But Murray, in a conversation with The Seattle Times editorial board, said that he wasn’t “fixated on a number” and that business would have to get something out of the negotiations if it was going to support a minimum-wage proposal.

Among questions that Murray said still needed to be answered were how a $15 minimum wage would be applied, over what period of time and whether small businesses would be exempt.

But he also said that any proposed measure “will have to be significant.”

Murray already has met with some business leaders and invited them to participate in a stakeholder group to be chaired by Howard S. Wright and David Rolf.

David Watkins, general manager of the Inn at the Market and president of the Seattle Hotel Association, said he and others will be looking to SeaTac, which just passed a $15 minimum-wage measure for hospitality and other airport-related workers.

“SeaTac is obviously a learning ground, but how much time do we have to learn what works and what doesn’t?” he asked.

Initiative 104 would create two tiers of workers, with the top tier, including chain retail and restaurant and hospitality employees, receiving $15 an hour and a second tier of employees earning $1.50 above the state minimum wage.

The initiative also slashes business taxes. It cuts the city B&O tax rate in half and halves the square-footage tax. Officials estimate it would cost the city $100 million in lost revenue each year.

“If we’re raising wages, we should lower the taxes on business. That’s the key to prosperity,” said Elizabeth Campbell, a backer of Initiative 104. Campbell previously fought the waterfront tunnel and unsuccessfully sued Councilmember Richard Conlin, accusing him of exceeding his authority in signing environmental documents for the project.

She now runs paid signature-gathering operations, most recently for the successful charter amendment to elect council members by district and a state gun-rights initiative.

The pro-business minimum-wage initiative is almost certain to cause confusion. It was filed by a group calling itself $15in2014 and its website says its goal is to “gain and retain power for working people.”

Sawant announced that activists in January would launch a campaign for the $15 minimum wage with a website called 15Now.org. And she has said that if she and her supporters aren’t able to find common ground with business and other city leaders, they will introduce their own initiative for the November general election.

“$15 has captured the imagination of working people across the country. It will bring substantial improvement in their lives,” Sawant said.

Comments

thrifty 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Those advocating a $15 minimum wage might want to think about this comment, "The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work." Legislating a $15 minimum wage could well be the same as legislating themselves out of a job.

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namvet60 3 months, 4 weeks ago

The major problem with this legislating is that the legislators have already got a bank account and the poor working stiffs don't, so the workers are the ones finding themselves on the outside looking in. Besides the unions don't really care as long as they get there fees.

I visited Seattle once and learned my lesson with the high prices and don't plan on visiting anytime soon. . . . . . . or in the future.

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thrifty 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I appreciate what you are saying. I also enjoy reading your posts since they reflect a lot of common sense.

My point is that many who are involed in minimum wage jobs are just starting out or are holding a job while completing school. There are exceptions to this today because of the poor economy. But those that are capable tend to move up in the business or move out to a different line of work.

My point is that many of these businesses that offer minimum wage jobs do so because they can't afford to pay high wages and still compete in the line of business they are in. If our government mandates a artifically high wage those businesses may not be able to compete and they could be forced out and the well intending workers would be left without a job.

Just because an organization exists doesn't mean it has an unlimited amount of money to satisfy everyone's needs. One shouldn't confuse a $1 in revenue with a $1 in gross profit. Profit is just a small percentage of revenue and it takes a lot of revenue to provide a pay raise or to hire an additional worker.

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namvet60 3 months, 4 weeks ago

I totally agree with your post and thank you.

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paco1234 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Namvet, based on your comments you semmingly have no idea about the topic at hand. Are you for or against the 15 dollar an hour minimum wage? When in Seattle, did you go to the Benaroya Hall, the SAM, the Asian Art Museum, the Seattle Aquarium, the Univrsity of Washington grounds, etc, etc...? By dismising and minimizing Seattle, a wondefull cosmopolitan city, you give yourself away as a provincial, UB daily nagger, who feels more comfortable traveling to Dixie for your cultural fixes.

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namvet60 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Whoa! What's wrong with Dixie? Ever been to the hummingbird aviary? Ever been to the goat farm outside of Dayton? Stop in, take the tour and pick up some goat cheese. Ever gone up into the Toucannon with a tent and a dutch oven? Oops - sorry - your probably not capable of sparking a campfire. Ever just go up into the Blues and spend some time? My cultural fixes come from nature and I don't need to go and spend $20.00 for a thimble of clam chowder and see plastic artifacts with pictures hanging on the wall.

You should probably stick to your bigoted, racist comments.

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downhillracer 3 months, 4 weeks ago

What is bigoted or racist in the statement, or is that just your standard nonsense response these days (clearly, original thought is not your strong suit)?

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namvet60 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Obviously you don't have a clue - never will have a clue - so why don't you go on about your business and stay out of everyone else's!

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downhillracer 3 months, 3 weeks ago

In otherwords, you can neither defend or substantiate your comment.

Again, still - nothing unusual here. I know a LOT of folks that would be pleased to see you cease making comments on every little thing, and then objecting when an opposing view presents itself. This is a public forum, and no one needs a petulant cry-baby shouting "I know you are, but what am I?" Every town needs its 'fool' and the 'vet' fills that requirement, hands-down. But, hey - you've got your little cheering squad to urge you on.. so be it.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

It's nice to see that you have outlined an exerpt from your autobiography.

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downhillracer 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Glad you're consistant. Ignorant, but consistant.

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namvet60 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Are you related to Paco - "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with your spelling". I know I will have a Merry Christmas - hope your Christmas is not as negative as your consistent comments.

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bj84711 3 months, 3 weeks ago

You have obviously never been in business or you would know a little more about what it takes to make payroll every week. Just because you are in business doesn't mean you are making a profit. A $15.00 minimum wage would most likely cost jobs and service. Just my opinion!

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PearlY 3 months, 4 weeks ago

If $15 an hour is good, wouldn't $30 an hour be better? Heck, let's really do working people a favor and raise the minimum wage to $100 an hour!

Politicians can push for higher minimum wage because they know that the people who benefit (those who keep their jobs and the same number of hours and also get higher pay) will credit the politicians, while those who lose their jobs or see their hours cut for a net loss of income will tend to blame the company that laid them off or "the economy" and not the politicians who are really to blame. And the young families who will no longer be able to afford to take their kids out for a fast-food treat once a week and the elderly who will no longer be able to get help with their yard work won't blame the politicians either.

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dogman12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Henry Ford shocked the business world in the 20s when he doubled wages. Guess what, he kept the best workers and made more profit.

Did you know that today CEOs make on average 328 times what their average workers make? We are all suffering from a corporate CEO compensation "arms race."

If minimum wage had kept up with increased productivity the last 30 years, it would be on the order of $18 an hour. Vulture capitalism squeezes ever more out of labor and keeps the difference, while threatening that workers are "fungible." This is true not only because there is a large pool of (intentionally created) un- and underemployed, but also because of the relentless push to automate jobs.

Greed rules, and it is obscene. After you have all of your needs met four times over, and have provided eternal security for your progeny, (thus insuring they will be clueless narcissists) taking more should earn you a special place in hell.

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PearlY 3 months, 2 weeks ago

dogman, most capitalists don't "take" more, they are given more by the people to whom they provide goods and services. To take something from someone who's not willing, you need to be in government. (Granted, now that government controls close to half of the economy and rising, more and more capitalists are, like Willie Sutton, "going where the money is", but that's apparently the way progressives want it so I assume you're OK with that.)

If I cared about CEO compensation, I'd only care about it in the corporations in which I invest. But I frankly don't care; if the company is well-run, has a good product or service, and pays me a reasonable rate of return on my investment with low risk, I'm happy as a clam. In any other corporations, it's strictly none of my business, nor yours. How in the world do you "suffer" when a CEO is paid a bundle, unless you're an investor in the company? Or does it just injure your feelings to know someone somewhere in a business is making out like Oprah or Miley Cyrus?

The top earning CEO in 2012, John Hammergren of McKesson, earned $131 million; Miley Cyrus earned $45 million in 2010 and probably more later and Oprah earned $165 million in 2012 and that was a drop of $125 million from the year before. McKesson provides medical supplies to millions of people around the world, saving lives and preventing disability. Miley Cyrus sticks out her tongue and dresses weirdly, Oprah entertains the non-productive classes. Why do liberals never complain about the earnings of celebrities, but only CEOs?)

The jobs that typically pay minimum wage have NOT experienced much, if any, increased productivity over the last 30 years and what little productivity gains they've seen aren't employee-driven but tech-driven. Instead, many jobs that existed before minimum wage laws have simply disappeared because they aren't worth paying minimum wage for. I'm guessing that's not what you mean when you talk of intentionally created unemployment, but that's what it was.

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