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May 2, 2014 at 6:40 AM

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage an admirable work in progress

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a $15 minimum-wage plan the day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate spiked Democratic legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.

The timing was perfect.

In the other Washington, rejecting an increase in pay for the lowest-paid workers in the country was a matter of ideological reflex. A shameful disregard for hard-working people slipping further behind in the economy.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces a $15 minimum wage plan. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces a $15 minimum-wage plan.
(Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Murray convened a diverse group of stakeholders, who represent a variety of opinions, attitudes, interests and financial exposures, to create a nuanced pay raise for Seattle workers. At its core, the pay raise moves toward $15 over seven years,  or on a faster pace based on the size of the business, and employer-paid wages and benefits, and consumer-paid tips.

A distinction is made between small and large businesses, with the former ranging up to 500 employees, a generous boundary. But I would also concede one appeal of the plan is that it defies a simple summary. The plan devised by Murray’s community task force is varied enough to accommodate and recognize a mix of employer realities.

My frustration with the city-by-city approach, expressed in a recent column, is that all of America needs a pay raise. Well, this week is sad confirmation that minimum-wage workers have a tough slog ahead. Seattle faced up to reality.

The mayor’s news conference was full of many appealing words: compromise, viability and cooperation. Next it falls to the Seattle City Council to ask questions about credible enforcement of the wage plan, and how the wage law would apply to City of Seattle employees. The council has a good template for progress to consider when it takes up the topic on May 5.

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