- This is the minimum wage proposal Mayor Ed Murray put forth today. Is it complicated? Yes. Can we explain it? We'll try.
• The difference between large and small business is indeed 500 full-time employees, (this includes employees nationally, not just in Seattle)
• At large businesses, employees who don't receive employer-paid health care hit the $15 wage in three years, while employees who receive health care hit $15 in four years
• Small businesses hit the $15 wage in seven years. In addition, over the first five years, a "temporary compensation responsibility" will be established that includes a combination of tips, health care and wages. That sounds really complicated; check out that wage table and we'll unpack it further later today.
• Once the first job category hits $15, it starts adjusting based on CPI; in the case of the later categories adjustment happens a little faster so as to catch up with that first category. Everyone reaches the same wage in 2025, which at that point will be $18.13 an hour.
Committee co-chair and SEIU 775 president David Rolf championed the deal as the result of a worker movement. "We're entering our fourth decade of wageless economic growth in America," he pointed out, "and our 14th year of jobless economic growth... Americans are saying, 'Enough is enough.'" He recalled the beginning of last summer's fast-food strikes, mentioning by name Caroline Durocher, the first Seattle employee to kick off those fast-food strikes in May 2013. All over the city, said Rolf, "fast food workers, unprotected by a union, walked off the job." Now their demand for a $15 minimum wage is, in one form or another, at city hall. And a coalition of progressive organizations has come together to support this plan wholeheartedly, even though it seems like a much larger compromise on the part of workers than on business.
But interestingly, while committee co-chair Howard Wright says he thinks "most of the employer community will be happy with this," it's notable that it's mainly people on the business side who haven't signed on to this plan. Murray clarified after questions that there was one no vote, one abstention, and one unknown vote on this plan from his committee members. The no came from Craig Dawson of Retail Lockbox; the abstention from Maud Daudon of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. (The unknown? Kshama Sawant, who will hold her own press conference in mere moments.)
Will fierce lobbying from business interests water it down even further in city council? Representing council, Nick Licata said that while this wasn't an "ideal" proposal, it was an "awesome victory" for the 100,000 Seattle workers who currently make less than $15 an hour. But no other council members were in the room; both Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant are on this committee. Licata said that legislators do like to get their "fingerprints" on a plan like this, but he thought it could pass. Without more council voices, that's not clear.
Murray, for his part, said he believes this compromise will avoid a major fight at the ballot, but the jury's still out on that, since different sides still have time to file initiatives and collect signatures. In fact, one group is already promising opposition to this plan: Kathrina Tugadi, of the group Forward Seattle, says they'll file their initiative in the next 10 days. This plan is way too complicated, says Tugadi, and "seven years is too long." Her plan? "$12.50 in five years for everyone, no exceptions, no total compensation, no tips... It's simple, and it protects the smallest businesses." They may not actually send that to the ballot, Tugadi notes, depending on what happens in city council.
Meanwhile, a crush of reporters sat down with the mayor's policy wonks to try and figure out just what the hell that table up there really means. We'll be breaking it down further over the course of the day, but it's important to remember: If this room can't readily figure out a wage schedule this complicated, how are employers and employees supposed to? The mayor and council have promised robust enforcement from a soon-to-be created city labor standards enforcement office. But with a wage schedule that has two to four different wages going for a full decade, it'll have to be pretty goddamn robust.