Protesters gathered at the federal courthouse last week in support of Seattles minimum wage law.
Protesters gathered at the federal courthouse last week in support of Seattle's minimum wage law. Working Washington

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A federal judge has ruled that the city does not have to hold off on increasing the minimum wage for fast food and other franchise employees while it fights a court battle over whether franchises should be treated as large or small employers.

The International Franchise Association is suing the city over its minimum wage increase, arguing it unfairly discriminates against franchises by treating them as large businesses and requiring them to increase wages at a faster rate than small independent businesses. (To understand more about what's going on in this case, read this post.)

This decision doesn’t settle that argument. (The IFA and city will be back in court later this year.) In this more limited request, IFA lawyers argued the judge should halt the minimum wage rollout—which will start April 1—for franchises while the case is being argued because raising wages to $11 an hour could cause franchises to lose business or close.

But the judge found the IFA hadn't done enough to actually prove that harm would occur.

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"Although the court is sympathetic to the concerns of franchisees," wrote Judge Richard Jones in his decision released tonight, "the individual plaintiffs’ declarations in this matter consist only of speculation. There is no actual evidence of the alleged negative impacts that plaintiffs fear will occur as a result of the faster phase-in schedule."

Plus, Jones writes, that possible harm to franchises "does not outweigh the concrete harm that will be suffered by employees who are entitled to a schedule 1 increase in their wages under the ordinance."

The full decision is 43 pages long and includes some of the judge's thoughts on the actual legal arguments the IFA is making here. I'm going to go through that tonight and in the morning because I trust you're all out drinking right now anyway. But for now, this is great fucking news for fast food workers, who fought so hard to get the minimum wage on local politicians' agendas. Come April 1, they—just like everyone else making minimum wage in the city—will get a raise.

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