Seattle Goes to the Mat for Minimum Wage

The Seattle City Council last week unanimously approved an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the nation. That’s more than double the current federal minimum of $7.25. This news represents a huge victory for low-paid workers, the majority of whom are women.

The increase will be phased in over the next few years depending on an employer’s size, with all employers meeting the $15 minimum by 2021. Even tipped workers, who work from a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, won’t suffer for much longer, writes Alan Pyke at ThinkProgress:

Tips can only be counted toward worker minimum pay for the next five years. After that, the separate minimum hourly pay rates for tipped and non-tipped workers will disappear, and all employees citywide will have to be paid $15 hourly or more.

The new legislation also ensures that Seattle’s minimum wage will increase at the rate of inflation—an excellent provision that’s rare in U.S. minimum-wage bills but ensures the continued economic improvement of the city’s lowest-paid workers. Washington State has been at the forefront of the push for urban workers’ rights across the country, as it currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 an hour.

Back in January, the Obama administration increased the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 in what the Washington Times called “a step designed to show the administration is ready to ‘lead by example’ as it urges stated, private companies and ultimately Congress to ensure every American employee is paid at least $10.10.” Increasingly, states are following suit and moving towards increases as well. New York’s statewide minimum wage has been increasing incrementally each year, though the increase is not tied to inflation. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a minimum wage of $13 an hour for the city, arguing that the city’s policy shouldn’t be decided by the Albany-based state government. San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Chicago are heading up minimum-wage campaigns of their own as well.

Photo of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray courtesy Wikimedia commons.



Robin Jones Kerr is a journalism major and women’s studies minor at George Washington University, and an intern at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.