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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

November 5, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Seattle city employees may be put on $15-an-hour fast track

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant (Credit: Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Months after passing a historic minimum-wage law, the Seattle City Council is  again considering action on the issue.

It may add nearly $2 million to Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed 2015 and 2016 budget to boost the pay of all city employees to at least $15 an hour immediately, rather than on the same timeline as private-sector workers.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, backed by Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Jean Godden, is requesting the change.

Murray’s first executive order after taking office in January directed staff to seek a $15-an-hour minimum wage for city employees, Sawant noted Wednesday in a meeting of the council’s budget committee.

But the mayor went on to help negotiate a $15 minimum wage for all workers in Seattle, not just city employees, and the ordinance he signed in June allows the city the same three-year phase-in period it grants to other employers.

Sawant says the city should set an example by moving to a $15 minimum wage  Jan. 1, not years down the road. The additional cost would be about $1 million in 2015 and $750,000 in 2016, she says.

“The gold standard is getting to $15 an hour as soon as possible,” Sawant said Wednesday, arguing the city shouldn’t “continue paying poverty wages to its own employees.”

Most city employees already make at least $15 an hour. But there are an estimated 1,500 who don’t, Sawant says. They include park-maintenance workers, Seattle Center ushers and interns. Many are part time or seasonal workers.

There are also about 475 youth in an annual summer program designed to give low-income teenagers job experience.

Most of the adult employees who earn under $15 an hour are represented by labor unions, and their wages are part of collective-bargaining agreements  being renegotiated now.

The council is reviewing the budget until Nov. 24. Budget amendments require support from at least five members.

Comments | More in Local government, Minimum wage, Politics Northwest, Seattle City Council | Topics: $15 an hour minimum wage, minimum wage, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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