City task force sends 2 minimum wage increase proposals to Tacoma City Council

TACOMA -- The majority of a city task force on Tuesday recommended that the minimum wage in Tacoma be raised to $15 an hour over the next nine years.

The 15-member committee came up with two minimum wage proposals for the city council to consider.

Proposal A would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for large businesses by 2020. Smaller businesses would have to pay employees $15 an hour by the year 2024.

Proposal B would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by the year 2019. Both proposals would phase-in the new minimum wage, with slight increases, every year.

Michael Beckwith makes $11 an hour. He has seen the city of Tacoma change a lot in the last 30 years, but his paycheck has remained the same.

"I was making this much money an hour as a cook 35 years ago," Beckwith complained.

Beckwith says he has a number of medical issues, and bills are piling up. A raise like this would be life-changing, he said.

"That would basically cover a lot of medical expenses."

Greg Troger owns a restaurant in downtown Tacoma and he worries these minimum wage proposals would put him out of business.

"It’s going to create an environment where people won’t want to come to downtown Tacoma," Troger argued.

He said a minimum wage increase would cost him thousands of dollars every week. Trogers added that he would have to raise prices or cut staff to make ends meet.

"I do think it would kill business,  Troger said. "You’d have to raise prices. You’re going to cut staff to be able to afford it. It’s not a win-win situation."

The Tacoma City Council has until Aug. 4 to choose one of the proposals for the November election.

In addition, a "15 Now" measure in Tacoma has already qualified for the November ballot. It states that businesses making gross revenues of $300,000 per year or more would have to pay a $15 minimum wage with no phase-in period or exceptions based on a business’s number of employees.