Could Seattle Make Its Minimum Wage $15?

Photo (cc) by anneh632

Fast-food workers protesting across the country have been calling for a $15 minimum wage, and people in Seattle seem to be taking the idea seriously.

In Washington state, the minimum wage is $9.19 — the highest state minimum wage in the country, The Associated Press reports. There’s an effort afoot in Seattle to push the city’s minimum to an even higher $15 an hour, and candidates for mayor and Seattle’s city council have said they are open to considering it.

One City Council candidate, economist Kshama Sawant, has made the minimum wage issue the focus of her campaign, the AP says. Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer supports the idea, telling the AP raising the minimum “is a very simple and elegant solution” to falling consumer demand.

There are the naysayers, of course. Some business advocates suggest businesses won’t be able to survive in the city with wages that high, the AP says. They cite (what else?) Walmart, which was recently frustrated by a vote that would raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., to $12.50 for some large retailers. The retailer had threatened to abandon building stores in the city over the increase.

Regardless of whether Seattle raises the minimum wage, some are taking the matter into their own hands — including a Seattle restaurant owner who doesn’t want the government to make that call, The Seattle Times says. Tom Douglas believes it should be up to the business owners, and he is raising the minimum wage for cooks and bakers at his 16 local restaurants to $15 an hour, and for dishwashers to $12 an hour. Douglas isn’t changing wages for tipped staff, and projects the raises will cost an extra $1.3 million in the first year.

The city’s typical hourly wage for food preparation workers is $10.51, MIT’s Living Wage Calculator says. A living wage in the city is $9.64 for a single adult, the calculator says, which works out to about $20,050 a year. Many around the country have to get by with thousands less.

“More than 15 million workers earn the national minimum wage, making about $15,080 a year — $50 below the federal poverty line for a family of two,” the AP says.

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