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    Murray puts forward $15 proposal

    His plan wins quick support from some progressive, business leaders.
    Mayor Ed Murray with the co-chairs of his Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf (left) and Howard Wright (Right)

    Mayor Ed Murray with the co-chairs of his Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf (left) and Howard Wright (Right) Photo: Bill Lucia

    Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday morning proposed a plan to raise Seattle's minimum wage to $15 per hour. 

    Under the proposal, the $15 wage would be phased in for both large and small businesses. If the mayor's plan is enacted, Seattle's minimum wage would become the highest of any city in the nation. The proposal is based on recommendations from a committee Murray appointed to advise him on the issue. Consensus over the recommendations had eluded the committee in recent weeks as representatives from labor, business and nonprofit groups struggled to line up support among their constituencies.

    The proposal will next go to the Seattle City Council, where it will receive quick attention. Councilmember Sally Clark, chair of a committee on income inequality, said a review of the proposal will begin at a meeting Monday. Murray announced his plan at a press conference at City Hall. 

    City Councilmember Nick Licata, who was a member of Murray's Income Inequality Advisory Committee, praised the proposal as an "awesome victory" and a step toward a real living wage.

    "I will work with the council to pass this proposal with the minimum amount of tinkering," he said.

    The mayor said that 21 of the committee's 24 members have agreed to the proposal. Among the dissenters was Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a $15 minimum wage stalwart, who said the proposal has been watered down by big businesses.

    About 100,000 workers in Seattle currently earn less than $15 per hour, according to a report professors at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs prepared for the advisory committee. The current state-mandated minimum wage in Washington is $9.32.

    The phase-in period for the pay floor increase would begin in 2015 for all businesses. Larger businesses with 500 or more employees would be required to pay their workers $11 per hour at that time. For larger businesses that provide their employees with health care the phase-in period would last four years, meaning that by 2018 they would be required to pay their workers $15 per hour. For large businesses that do not provide health coverage the phase-in period would last three years; they would hit the $15 mark by 2017.

    The arrangement for businesses with fewer than 500 employees is different. The minimum wage for those employers would reach $15 after seven years, in 2021, increasing at a rate of $0.50 annually along the way.

    Small businesses would also be required to guarantee workers "minimum compensation," which includes tips and health insurance. Minimum compensation, including tips and healthcare, would rise to $15 per hour for smaller businesses by 2019.

    After each wage category reaches $15, hourly pay will increase annually based on the consumer price index, which is estimated at 2.4 percent in the mayor's proposal. By 2025, minimum wage for all businesses in Seattle and total compensation for small businesses would be $18.13.

    Mayor Ed Murray announces his $15 minimum wage proposal, along with members of his income inequality advisory committee. From left to right, CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group, Howard Wright, president of the SEIU Healthcare 775NW union, David Rolf, City Councilmember Nick Licata and Solid Ground's Gordon McHenry. Photo: Bill Lucia

    Calling the proposal historic, Murray cited statements by Pope Francis about the evils of growing inequality. SEIU Healthcare 775NW president, David Rolf, praised his co-chair on the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, Howard Wright, and the business community for their work on the proposal.

    Wright, who is the CEO of Seattle Hospitality Group, said that most businesses would back the proposal. He added that "fear and exhaustion" had helped push the committee's belabored negotiations over the wage plan toward a conclusion. The mayor had said he wanted a plan that had "supermajority" support within the group.

    Murray formed the committee last December, shortly after he was elected. In recent weeks, members sparred over issues like the phase-in period, how the wage should be applied to small businesses and whether tips should be counted toward hourly pay.

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    Posted Thu, May 1, 10:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    Naming at least ONE labor or progressive group that praised the Mayor's laughable proposal would be actual journalism.

    Posted Fri, May 2, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    "With this announcement today, Seattle is leading the way toward a better economy and more robustly shared prosperity,” said David Rolf, co-chair of the IIAC and president of SEIU 775.


    Posted Thu, May 1, 10:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    3 to 7 years. Plenty of time for businesses to move out of town...


    Posted Thu, May 1, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    They aren't going to move. We'll just see more machinery and automation or fewer workers, depending on the work.


    Posted Thu, May 1, 1:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here are the machines that we're going to start to see all over in the next 3 years:


    Most minimum wage jobs exist solely because human labor is cheaper in that role than mechanical labor. But at what wage level does this mechanical labor become cheaper? We already saw what happened to industry and textiles in the US when labor costs surged past mechanical costs. Now it is the service industry's turn.

    McDonalds has had automated fry machines, touchscreens, burger making machines, and drink dispenses for more than a decade now. You're about to see them up close.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 6:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Do you enjoy eating in such "restaurants?"


    Posted Fri, May 2, 6:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    No, but they are a source of jobs for a lot of people who don't have the skills to work in other fields. I'm just saying that if you can imagine a machine that can do the repetetive tasks that you perform throughout the day then it probably already exists and the only reason you're still on the job is that you're cheaper than it.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 7:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    What percentage of people who work at those jobs do so only because "they don't have the skills" to work elsewhere, and what percentage of people who work at those jobs do so because even though they have skills to work at better jobs, are flipping burgers because that is the only job available?

    Until you can answer that question accurately, you should avoid such blanket statements.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    Funny - for all the automation in McDonalds I still see a flurry of human activity. I guess you're talking about the coming of Arnold-type cyber-servers.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 6:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Dicks already pays several dollars an hour more than McDonalds, and the food is better.
    There are a LOT of jobs that are not going to be automated- either the jobs are too varied, or the business volume is too small to justify a few hundred grand for a robot. Its still cheaper to pay one person fifteen bucks, who can either wait tables, or wash dishes, or make salads, depending on the need at the time, than to buy a dish washing robot, a salad making robot, and some sort of motorized dirty dish grabbing robot.

    I have had employees since about 1982.
    I dont think fifty cent an hour raises once a year is gonna drive many companies out of town.
    Seven years is plenty of time to slowly adjust prices and policies to account for this.
    I personally pay people more than minimum wage, and have for years- you cant get decent employees for minimum wage.

    The world wont end, and people will not drive to Issaquah to get Pho for a buck cheaper.


    Posted Thu, May 1, 4:06 p.m. Inappropriate

    This is a big win for Mayor Murray. He promised to get to $15 gradually, and to craft a compromise that the big interests could support, using his negotiating skills and patience learned in Olympia to get there. It's a sign that there is still a "center" to Seattle politics, at least among large institutions. Whether that center will hold over time and pressure, and whether it includes small businesses and the expanding Left, we shall see.

    I think labor realized that they had better come together and support this, lest the committee package tilt further to the business side. Labor may also have realized that Sawant's ability to lead a "$15-Now" campaign to victory was decreasing day by day.

    This political boost may also help Mayor Murray to find his footing on other issues.

    Posted Fri, May 2, 7:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    I concur. It looked like the Mayor's idea of using a committee to craft a proposal was going to backfire when they couldn't come to consensus by last week's deadline. But as it turns out the committee, minus three members, came out with a very reasonable proposal that businesses should be able to adopt without dramatic upheaval.
    This is one temporary measure though as regards the problem of stagnant wages. The rapid advance of technology will continue to reduce the demand for low skill labor. At the local level the City should now turn its focus to universal pre-school, affordable broadband, and real school reform. These measures will help provide the opportunities that people need to best take advantage of the new technology driven economy.
    We should also prepare for a growing number of poor, basically unemployable people. Until changes are made at the federal level to provide a more permanent safety net for those at the very bottom, it will fall on cities and counties to deal with the problems from long term unemployment.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 8:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    I don't agree this a win of any size for Murray. He just lost my support by allowing the idea of tip credit into this plan, and worse, he's going to allow businesses that provide health benefits to offset wages by that cost as well. As I see it, business wins big, workers lose big. I thought tip credit was illegal in WA, but am ready to admit it if I'm mistaken. One of the problems with it is that tips are not guaranteed income. The amount a tipped person actually receives in tips varies by day, season, weather, economic health, and more. Meanwhile the business employing that tipped employee can offset the wage whether the tipped person makes what the employer offsets or not.

    Furthermore, such an arrangement creates a permanent two tier wage scheme; we'll never see tip/benefit credit go away if it's allowed to begin. And from that we'll get an entrenchment of the inequality the whole move for a higher minimum wage is supposed to address. This is NOT a win for tipped workers, who, after all are the people that actually do the work that runs employers' businesses.

    This idea is just terrible and I will do whatever I can find to do to see that it doesn't become law. Not that that will matter. I appears the fix is in.


    Posted Thu, May 1, 9:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Say good bye to all those worker bees at fast food eateries. Once automation takes place, each shift will probably need three people and don't be surprised to see two or even fully automated restaurants.

    Getting a pay raise without upping production or providing added value to the business doesn't seem like a successful business model. But we are talking about Seattle, a place where reality seldom strikes when it comes to social lawmaking.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 6:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Have you ever been to a conveyor belt sushi joint? it takes a whole raft of employees to make that sushi, load the plates, wash the dishes, etc.
    NOBODY has invented a chef robot yet.
    Even at Burger King, a human flips the burgers, a human fills the cups, a human takes your order.
    Maybe in 30 years, we will see all automated restaurants, but, frankly, the technology aint anywhere near ready- voice recognition software still routinely screws up on every device its installed on- and when it did, in a restaurant, humans would have to deal with the mistakes.

    And the trend in Seattle is towards high end restaurants, with more hand preparation- the chains have been migrating to the suburbs for decades.
    So the cheap food will move farther out, and the market in Seattle will be better than ever for twenty dollar burgers and pizzas from Tom Douglas that cost $17 for one person at Serious Pie.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 11:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    You're behind the times. Really behind. I suggest that you use a search engine to support your position. You'll seem smarter, but it's to late for that now.





    Posted Sat, May 3, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    There is ONE Bolt Burger- and its been in business since November, and a burger there costs a minimum of seven bucks.

    Dicks has been around since 1955, paying well above minimum wage, offering medical and retirement and education benefits, and it will withstand any crappy Bolt Burger franchises that try to open here- assuming Bolt Burger even stays open six months in DC, much less takes over the country.

    I am old enough to have eaten at Automats- no human interaction there, either- almost fifty years ago.
    Somehow that idea didnt set the world on fire, and I am highly dubious that six dollar smoothies and ten dollar burgers, ordered on an Ipad, are going to replace cooks and waiters and cashiers, either.


    Posted Sat, May 3, midnight Inappropriate

    Turns out union folks recognize the threat that raising the minimum wage brings. I'm betting on technology.



    Posted Tue, May 6, 5:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    To give you idea of how fast things are moving. Last year on our trip to the big Island, we went to a medium to large restaurant that had two waitresses doing tables. We ordered on the table iPad and paid our bill on it. The wait person brought our drinks and food and that was sum total of of our dialogue with her. Two years prior there were six or seven wait types. When I asked our waitress about the change, she loved it. Eased her work load, didn't have a constant nag from the customers, and best of all, didn't split the tips.

    The world is moving faster then you or I ever thought possible and in directions that surprise us. Automation of burger joints is just one of many changes coming down the road.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yea. Right. Seattle will be manned by auto-bots in all Starbucks and McDonalds. We'll notice not very much change as this is a nuanced proposal that allows businesses to adjust their prices with the labor costs. I also like that the minimum wage will be pegged to the CPI.

    Funny (in a ha-ha sort of way) that a pile of other countries can manage to have higher minimum wages without the zombie apocalypse predicted by the elite class here. Good for Murray for finding a nuanced approach.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 9:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    I honestly see a backlash with this over time. I would support any voter initiatives or propositions to repeal this junk plan.


    Posted Fri, May 2, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Doubtful. In a year and going forward I'd be willing to bet a large sum of cash we will see 0 difference; despite the chaff at Fox dis-news service.


    Posted Wed, May 7, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    I am still waiting for that backlash about the raise of minimum wage up to a whopping buck sixty five an hour- thats what I got paid, in 1972.
    Somehow, though, all the republicans in the late sixties who predicted DOOM if it broke a dollar fifty- they are quiet about that today.

    The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.


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