New, higher minimum wage takes effect in Seattle: $11 an hour for some, $10 for others

SEATTLE -- Wednesday, April 1, marked the beginning of the new $15-an-hour minimum wage ordinance in Seattle that will be phased in over the next several years.

An estimated 40,000 people received raises in Seattle as the new minimum wage ordinance took effect.

On Wednesday, large businesses and national chains had to raise their minimum pay to at least $11 an hour. Smaller businesses must pay at least $10 an hour.

Seattle's current minimum wage is $9.47, the same as the Washington state minimum wage.

Large corporations, with more than 500 people, must increase pay to $15/hour by 2017. Smaller businesses, with fewer than 500 employees, must reach the $15/hour mark by 2019.

Mayor Ed Murray celebrated the landmark occasion.

"Income inequality is destroying the middle class. It is destroying that American dream of opportunity. And today, Seattle takes a step in reversing that trend and restoring that dream," Murray said.

The new ordinance is also drawing praise from federal officials.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said, "You have every reason to be proud of this and I am confident that other communities will follow suit because what the business community has seen here is that the high road is the smart road."

But, this new pay scale will mean owners will change the way they do business. Many restaurant owners say they will evolve with the changes over time. Some might implement brand new business models and pass costs on to customers.