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Seattle City Council Approves $15 Minimum Wage

In a unanimous vote, to a standing ovation, the Seattle City Council approved a bill to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The crowd cheered “We made 15 possible!” after the reading of the vote tally in a meeting marked with passionate pleas for its passage from the public as well as council members.

Failed Amendments

The packed crowd of vocal proponents for the passage of the bill, many of whom gave their personal stories during the section of public comment, booed the failure of four amendments to the City Council’s plan.

First, Councilmember Nick Licata re-introduced Amendment A, which would strike the training wage option for young or disabled workers.

Amendment B would overturn a change made to the minimum wage proposal in committee by Councilmember Sally Clark. It delayed the start date to April 2015, instead of January, to give employers more time to prepare for the higher wage.

Both of these amendments were defeated by a vote of 5-4.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant introduced Amendment C, which would have changed the table of phase-in for the higher minimum wage for large businesses. Large businesses are defined as having more than 500 employees, nationally and locally. Only Sawant voted in favor of its passage.

Sawant also was the only council member to vote for the removal of the tip credit during the phase-in process for small businesses. After the vote was tallied, the crowd began to loudly chant, “Shame on you!”

Phasing In

The proposal out of Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee went largely unchanged through the council, except for the implementation date and the addition of a training-wage exception.

Under the City Council’s plan, businesses with more than 500 employees, including national ones, will be the first to be affected by the higher wage.

They must reach $15 in three years if they aren’t providing health care for their employees. Those that do have four years to phase in $15.

That means franchises – even those that may employ about 10 people locally – will be considered large businesses under the plan.

Small businesses would have seven years to reach a $15-an-hour wage. In the first five years, benefits such as tips and health insurance would be included in the total wage.

No industry or class of business will be exempt, including nonprofits.

KUOW’s Ruby de Luna contributed to reporting.

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