When Mayor Ed Murray announced yesterday that his minimum wage advisors were still sitting in City Hall conference rooms locked in negotiations, he also revealed that they had a majority agreement on a deal, the majority just wasn’t big enough for the deal to feel final.
But that meant there was a real proposal being discussed. And sources familiar with the negotiations have now revealed to The Stranger the specifics of that majority-backed proposal. It could change by the minute—hell, it could already have changed—but it’s certainly worth a look.
• Large business is defined as more than 500 full-time equivalent employees (and small business as under 500)
• All employers would phase in to $15 an hour, with no inflationary adjustment during the phase-in
• A two-pronged approach for big business: A straight three-year phase-in if employees do not receive health-care, and a four-year phase-in if they do (but no health-care credit)
• A similar two-pronged approach for small business: A seven-year phase-in for small businesses without health-care or tip credits, or a five-year phase-in that includes a health care and tip credit
• Those health-care and tip credits would be phased out after employees reach the full $15
Jeff Reading, the mayor’s communications director, said he could not confirm that this is the proposal they’re considering. But it certainly tracks with what the mayor said at his press conference—that second bullet was totally confirmed by the mayor, as was the eventual phase-out of any benefit credits, and the 500 FTE distinction was floated as well.
We’ve also heard from multiple sources that this final agreement is being hashed out not by the full committee, but by a subcommittee of six, with three labor representatives and three business representatives. Asked to comment on that, Reading said they’ve been open about the fact that there are subcommittees meeting as part of the larger committee's work, and that yes, a group of "about six or eight" people have been in talks. But he also stressed that the work of a subcommittee "does not supplant the work" of the larger body. The agreement Murray and his co-chairs have said they’re looking for is a "supermajority" of the committee as a whole.
Again, everything here is in flux. Is this the proposal that the mayor will eventually announce? No one knows for sure. But it's an inside look at where the negotiations stood very recently.
UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: The deal is not final, the mayor has not announced anything, and so we'll have to wait for public confirmation. But in the interim, a few clarifying points, from a source with knowledge of the prospective deal.
First, on the idea of when any inflations adjustments go into effect: Since there are going to be multiple phase-ins for multiple categories, it seems adjustments would begin after a particular wage category hits $15. So big businesses that don't offer health care would start raising the wage, based on the consumer price index, after their three-year phase in. Also interesting: When categories with longer phase-in periods get to $15, they'd have to adjust at a rate slightly higher than the CPI, so they can get to parity with the other tiers.
Second, on the small business component: I used the phrase "health care credit" and "tip credit," which usually mean that employers are allowed to pay less than the regular minimum wage as long as tips or benefits make up the difference. This source says that this proposal would be different, in that it would require small businesses that count tips or benefits toward minimum compensation to pay a higher amount than the city's small business minimum wage at the time. But as it's still being debated, what that means exactly is complicated. Much of this may change—or the whole damn thing could fall apart tomorrow. But it seems useful to talk about the nuances when using phrases like "tip credit."