Seattle mayor plans to give city employees $15 minimum wage

SEATTLE — Mayor Ed Murray announced plans Friday to issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for all city employees to $15 an hour.

“We want to serve as a model to make Seattle a city where individuals and families are paid livable wages,” Murray said at a news conference on his third day in office. “This is the first step in the bigger picture, to make this minimum wage citywide.”

Murray said about 600 city employees will see their wage rise shortly, with about a $700,000 hit on the city’s budget.

The state minimum wage is $9.32 an hour.

Murray has also convened an Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which will be tasked with delivering a recommendation on how to implement a new citywide wage.

"This is not an affordable city," said Douglas Allen, a city employee who works at Seattle Center. "I don`t know who said it was, but it ain't."

Allen makes slightly more than $15 an hour, but knows others who will appreciate the raise.

"I would like to see everyone make a decent living."

The announcement comes a day after newly elected City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant announced her plans to push for a higher wage for all Seattle workers. Both Sawant, a socialist, and Murray campaigned on increasing wages.

In a statement, Sawant said, "I am pleased to hear about Mayor Murray's executive order to begin the process of making $15/hour the minimum wage for all city workers. This move towards $15 for an estimated 600 city employees is an important step in the right direction and a victory of the growing movement of low-wage workers. It starkly demonstrates the unprecedented political momentum for a $15/hour minimum wage for all of Seattle.

"As an immediate step, I appeal to Mayor Murray to insist that the thousands of city subcontractor employees not covered by today's order also be raised to a minimum of $15," she said.

Some Seattle businesses are worried about where this may be leading.

Claudia, a manager at Julia's Restaurant on Capital Hill, said if the city ends up passing an ordinance that requires private business to pay $15 an hour, it could lead to a loss of jobs, and a decrease in overall pay.

"Small business owners like my boss, for example, I don`t believe he`ll be able to pay his employees $15 an hour. He`s going to have to make adjustments and it will probably affect our tips."

The mayor said he will listen to concerns from the business community about extending the $15 minimum wage citywide. His committee studying the idea will make its recommendations in April.