Murray and his committee co-chairs, David Rolfe (L) and Howard Wright (R).
  • Eli Sanders
  • Murray and his committee co-chairs, David Rolf (L) and Howard Wright (R).
With a packed room full of press, at an already delayed press conference set by Mayor Ed Murray to announce his grand proposal on raising the minimum wage, Murray has announced... that there's still no final agreement.

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"We have reached agreement in principle," Murray said of his minimum wage advisory committee, but "currently, we have not reached an agreement that a large number of parties are willing to sign off on." He added, flanked by the committee's two co-chairs, that negotiations are ongoing—literally right now, outside this press room, they're still working on hashing out a compromise.

But he did outline some of the basic principles that a deal will be based on:

• "Number one: The minimum wage should be raised to $15," says the mayor. Read: A wage raise to less than $15 is off the table.

• "There is a particular challenge for small business and nonprofits," said Murray, also specifically calling out immigrant-owned businesses. "Given that, getting to $15 should be phased-in."

• "Once $15 is reached, future increases should be based on the CPI [consumer price index]." That signals that cost of living adjustments wouldn't start until after $15 is reached, after a phase-in of an unknown number of years—something committee member Kshama Sawant has said is unacceptable to her, since it wouldn't be $15 in today's dollars.

• "There should be no exemptions." Meaning: no exemption for unions to collectively bargain for less than $15, a union giveaway that people have long complained about.

• There will be a commitment to better enforce labor laws, like laws against wage theft. Murray admits that at the city, "we really do not have a good labor enforcement process here."

• And lastly: "There would be some benefits that would be phased out as the minimum wage is phased in." Does that mean health care, tips, retirement, shift meals? He won't say.

What the mayor and his co-chairs will say is that the committee has actually reached a deal they can get a majority on. But they're not negotiating for just a simple majority. Says committee co-chair David Rolf: "We want a supermajority. We would like a unanimous vote... If we need a little extra time, it's worth taking." The mayor says, offhand, he'd like to get at least 60 percent of his committee in agreement, fearing that a simple majority deal could end up falling apart.

"No one's walked away from the table, much to my surprise," Murray joked. "People have walked out of the room, but they've walked back."

The real trick, says Murray, is that "people are struggling to get their membership organizations" into agreement. Labor groups, business groups, nonprofits—the people at his table represent other people, and they need to get backing. Rolf says he has "no doubt" that this second, people back there are on frantic conference calls.

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Murray, who had told the press he'd announce his own plan today if the committee couldn't reach a deal, now says he'll decide by tomorrow whether to keep negotiating or draft his own proposal to submit to city council.

Five floors down, Sawant is hosting her own press conference in response. Stay tuned!

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