Last November, Seattle elected a straight-up socialist to their City Council who, among other economic/social-justice aspirations, included the already popular idea of a minimum wage hike to $15/hour in her campaign platform. Evidently, the fact that that is now very likely going to happen in a gradual phase-in over the next few years isn’t quite good enough for her, via the NYT:
Mayor Ed Murray presented on Thursday what he described as an imperfect but workable 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, through a series of complex and phased-in stages. Just as crucially, he said, the plan has broad political support, with a coalition of labor and business groups ready to push hard for it at the City Council, starting with the first hearings next week.
But the plan, which in many other cities might be seen as a liberal Democratic agenda at the frontier of social and economic engineering, was immediately attacked not from the mayor’s right, but from his left.
Kshama Sawant, a Socialist Alternative Party member who was elected to the Seattle City Council last year on a single-minded drive to raise wages, said the plan had been “watered down” by business interests on the mayor’s 24-member committee on income inequality, of which she was also a member. In a packed news conference at City Hall right after Mr. Murray’s, she called on her supporters to continue their effort to gather signatures for a possible ballot initiative on wages this fall. The campaign might also put pressure on the Council to make the mayor’s plan better for workers, she suggested. “Every year of a phase-in means yet another year in poverty for a worker,” Ms. Sawant said. “Our work is far from done.”
A handy 21 of the city’s 24 council members are on board with the plan, which designates that large Seattle-based employers (with 500+ employees, no matter where those employees are in the country) start paying the $15/hour rate as soon as 2017 with smaller businesses phasing in by 2021 — and all this despite the fact that Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the country:
Washington is home to the nation’s highest state minimum wage, at $9.32 an hour. As of April 8, 38 states had considered minimum wage bills in 2014, with 34 of them considering increases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia have passed increases. Hawaii is expected to join that list after legislators approved a future hike Tuesday to $10.10, the level President Obama has pushed for nationwide. Workers in several states will see minimum wages of at least $10 in several states within a few years.
States and cities have led the charge as federal legislation has languished. San Francisco started the year with a $10.74 minimum wage, while Sante Fe’s hit $10.66 on March 1. A $15 minimum wage went into effect for some workers on Jan. 1 in SeaTac, the small city that is home to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.
I might add that, while a “coalition of business and labor groups are ready to push hard” for the hike, there are other groups equally ready to push hard against it:
Seattle’s push to become the first big U.S. city with a $15-an-hour minimum wage has hit a snag: opposition from waiters and bartenders. …
“People are talking about moving to a European system of tipping,” says Maloney, 28, meaning less automatic and not as generous. She has become a spokeswoman for a group called Tips Are Wages, appearing in the Seattle Times, KIRO Radio, and other local media to argue for a carve-out that keeps tipped workers at a lower minimum. “I have built a life around the current model of tipping,” she says. …
Restaurants have warned they might boost menu prices as much as 25 percent or force servers to share more of their tips with cooks, dishwashers, and other back-of-the-house staff. …
Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to the council on her own $15 pledge, calls those suggestions “fear mongering” and says people who cling to tips miss the point. “We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day,” she says.
Well. So much for the “service” industry.
I would estimate that Seattle will eventually come to regret this decision in the long run, but hey, that’s what federalism and local governance are for, I suppose — a notion that desperate Democrats in Washington are currently refusing to grasp.