$15 Minimum Wage: Seattle Putting Plan in Place for One of Highest Hourly Wages in Nation

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray recently presented a plan to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage and one of the highest anywhere in the nation. The plan includes phased-in stages, and according to reports, is has broad political support, with a coalition of labor and business groups ready to push hard for it at the City Council, whose hearings start this week. A series of public meetings on the subject are slated for this month as well.

Washington stands as the state that already has the nation’s highest minimum wage of $9.32.

Murray’s plan, a compromise agreed upon by 21 of the 24 members of a committee of representatives from labor, business and nonprofit organizations, rolls out over several years and applies first to some large businesses starting in 2017, and ultimately to all businesses by 2021. Reports also indicate that the wage increase will apply to 102,000 workers, and annual increases would then be tied to inflation.

Critics and worker activists say this plan will take too long to go into implementation and that cost to sustain the wage increase will either lead to loss of jobs or won’t improve unemployment.

The minimum wage increase could have significant impact on women and minority teens especially if other states and cities follow suit. Workers under age 25 made up about half of those paid the Federal minimum wage or less, and among employed teenagers paid by the hour, about 21% earned the minimum wage or less, compared with about 3 percent of workers age 25 and over. Women dominate the ranks of low-wage jobs but are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

On the federal end, President Obama and the Democratic party have been working to raise the nation’s minimum wage rate to $10.10 per hour, which was blocked by Senate Republicans last week. Republicans said an increase on the federal level will only hurt the economy. Obama has sought to rally support via political proponents and the Web with #1010Means highlighting the benefits of raising the minimum.

The Center for American Progress reports that if an increase in minimum wages takes place in the future, the income of blacks, Asians and Hispanics combined will go up by a total of $16.1 billion. People of color make up 42% of minimum-wage earners, but only 32 percent of the workforce.

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