Seattle mayoral candidate Ed Murray is vowing to push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage if elected, but says the effort would proceed cautiously.
During a news conference at his Capitol Hill campaign headquarters, Murray said the $15 wage should be phased in — starting with ensuring city employees and contractors are paid at least that amount. Next, Murray said, he’d target “fast-food brands and big-box retail” stores. Small businesses would be exempt.
Murray’s proposal leaves plenty of details to be worked out later, including the timeline and size of businesses that would be affected.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It’s something we need to approach thoughtfully,” Murray said.
Politically, Murray’s wage pledge serves as a rebuttal to Mayor Mike McGinn, who has sought to portray himself the true progressive and Murray as a tool of the downtown business interests. Murray said his business supporters would not be “jumping for joy” at his minimum-wage proposal.
McGinn has championed the cause of low-wage workers, backing the city’s paid sick leave ordinance and moving to block a planned Whole Foods in West Seattle over wage complaints raised by the grocery workers union. But McGinn has stopped short of endorsing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for Seattle, saying the wage should be set at the state level.
In a statement released by his campaign today, McGinn pivoted on that stance somewhat. “I support increasing the minimum wage — federal, state local, whatever it takes to get it done,” he said.
McGinn then swiped at Murray’s plan as mostly talk. “If you take a close look at Sen. Murray’s proposal, all he’s actually proposing to do is to convene people to talk more about ‘moving toward’ a higher minimum wage,” McGinn said. “Talk is cheap. Taking action is a lot harder.”
However, McGinn’s statement did not give any indication he’d introduce a minimum wage ordinance himself.
McGinn also noted that Murray’s proposal does not mention hotel workers. “Is that because Richard Hedreen, a major hotel developer, is shoveling money into his campaign for reelection?” McGinn said. “I don’t think campaign donations should decide who gets an increase in the minimum wage.”
That was a reference to R.C. Hedreen Co., a hotel developer that has donated $10,000 to a political-action committee backing Murray.
Murray campaign spokesman Sandeep Kaushik rejected that accusation, saying minimum wage negotiations would “presumably include” hotel workers if Murray gets elected.
The minimum wage proposal was part of Murray’s “Economic Opportunity Agenda” outlining his strategy to improve the lives of lower-wage workers. Murray’s plan also includes a new Office of Labor Standards to ensure compliance with wage and paid sick leave laws. He also favors stepping up city efforts to help immigrant communities, including new a citywide English-learning initiative and a small business incubator to assist new immigrant owned businesses.