SEATTLE—Seattle activists celebrated a successful campaign to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 by calling for a national movement to close the income and opportunity gaps between rich and poor.
The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that would give the city the highest minimum wage in the nation.
Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant said the push for a higher minimum wage is spreading across the nation.
The minimum wage issue has dominated politics in the liberal municipality for months, and a boisterous crowd of mostly labour activists packed the council chambers for the vote.
Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant did in her campaign last year.
“We did it. Workers did this,” Sawant said. “We need to continue to build an even more powerful movement.”
The International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based business group that represents franchise owners, said it plans to sue to stop the ordinance, calling it “unfair, discriminatory and a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small-franchise business owners.”
Effective April 1, 2015, the measure includes a phase-in of the wage increase over several years, with a slower process for small businesses. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationally will have at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years.
San Francisco currently has the nation’s highest hourly minimum wage at $10.74. The current minimum wage in Washington state is $9.32 an hour.