Just days after her political organization, 15 Now, said there would be no compromises on a $15 minimum wage for all workers, City Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced at a weekend rally that she supports a phase-in for small businesses.
Speaking at a march and rally Saturday for a $15 minimum wage in the city, Sawant said she would propose a three-year phase in for small businesses and human-service organizations that would raise the wages to $11 in 2015 with regular step increases to reach $15.
She said she would make the recommendation to Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which is supposed to come up with a minimum wage proposal by the end of April or face an initiative campaign by 15 Now.
“[The] Mayor said he is concerned about very small businesses,” Sawant said. “Let’s take that off the table here today. Let’s support both small businesses and human services by phasing them in over three years. This is our proposal,” said Sawant. The rally and the change in strategy was reported by the Capitol Hill blog. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly credited the Capitol Hill Blog with first reporting Sawant’s comments.)
Murray’s committee meets again March 26 to hear consultants’ final report on the potential economic impacts of increasing the minimum wage. On March 31, the committee is scheduled to identify options for its final proposal.
15 Now organizing director Jess Spear confirmed that Sawant was taking the proposal for a phase-in for small businesses to the Mayor’s task force. She noted that while small businesses account for a majority of Seattle businesses, the majority of workers are employed at larger corporations.
“Big corporations were hiding behind the concerns for small business being expressed in discussions about the minimum wage. Businesses like McDonald’s and Target were not at the debates,” Spear said.
She said that by taking small business off the table, it better allows the City Council, the Mayor’s task force and the public to think about who should be impacted by a $15 minimum wage in the city.
But Spear added that the language for a ballot initiative hasn’t yet been determined and likely won’t until the April 26 deadline for the Mayor’s proposal. At that point, she said, the group, which is aligned with Sawant’s Socialist Alternative Party, will determine if the proposal is strong enough to provide meaningful wage increases for Seattle workers.
“Our role is to continue to provide pressure and provide heat to get the most we can get. We can achieve more if we continue to pressure for what we need and what we deserve,” she said.