May 1, 2014

Progressive Groups Supporting Seattle Mayor’s $15/hr Proposal

SEATTLESeattle’s progressive leaders say they strongly support Mayor Murray’s $15/hour minimum wage plan as a big win for 100,000 people working for low wages in Seattle, all while boosting the local economy and giving smaller employers time to phase in higher wages.

“We will no longer wait for CEOs or Congress to take action to address the income inequality and economic malaise that particularly plagues working women and people of color,” said Pramila Jayapalformer Executive Director of One America, an immigrant rights organization. “Seattle, and other cities across the country, are taking the lead to raise wages to match the rising cost of living, helping all families trying to achieve the American dream.” Jayapal served as member of the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC) and supports the Mayor’s plan.

Supported by a wide range of progressive organizations and small businesses, the Mayor’s plan would provide an immediate boost for 102,000 low wage workers in Seattle. The majority of low wage workers in Seattle would see their minimum wages rise to $15/hour in 2017 or 2018, and then progress towards $18.13/hour (based on projected Consumer Price Index adjustments) at different rates, depending on the size of their employers.

“What matters most to me is my 4-year old daughter, Canaela. My dream is to give her the same opportunities as other children. For starters, I want to provide a stable home for her and I want to give her a space to call her own,” said Julia DePape, a McDonald’s worker and leader of Working Washington, which led Seattle’s fast food worker strikes. “I dream of taking her to the zoo for the first time because I can only imagine how her face would light up! With $15, I have a chance at that.”

According to the 15 For Seattle statement signed by more than 100 progressive groups, including Seattle NAACP, Lifelong Aids Alliance and Moms Rising:  “Today, more than 100,000 Seattle residents earn less than $15 an hour, half of them are older than 30 and a third of them are parents.”

“By 2017, workers in Seattle will have $100 million more to spend than if minimum wage paced with inflation alone,” explained Nicole Vallestro Keenan, Policy Director at Puget Sound Sage and a member of the IIAC supporting the Mayor’s plan.

The 15 For Seattle statement also says: “The cost of living in Seattle has out-paced wage growth, and this has had a disproportionate impact on women and people of color.”

“We’ve already raised our workers’ salaries to $15 an hour,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza, a non-profit service provider and social justice organization. “Higher wages give our workers a reason to stay at their jobs and the ability to spend more money, putting more tax dollars into the economy. When our constituents make more money at their jobs, they are better able to take care of themselves and their families.”

Many of the coalition’s 100+ progressive members have already endorsed the Mayor’s plan, including SEIU, One America, Main Street Alliance, UFCW 21, Working Washington, King County Central Labor Council, Washington Community Action Network, Puget Sound Sage, Teamsters 117, and El Centro de la Raza. Other members of 15 For Seattle are taking the Mayor’s proposal back to their organizations for review and approval.

“We’re all better off when we’re all better off and this agreement pushes up the hourly wages of all lower paid workers over time to $15 and then beyond. This is a groundbreaking,” said Sarah Cherin, Policy and Political Director for UFCW 21 and a member of the IIAC supporting the  Mayor’s plan. UFCW 21 represents workers in grocery stores, health care, retail and other industries.

As a transition measure, the Mayor’s proposal allows consideration of health care and tips during phase in of higher wages for smaller businesses and non-profits. The plan establishes a temporary “Minimum Compensation” responsibility above a set minimum wage.  Employers can choose to phase in minimum wage increases at a slower pace only if they provide a minimum level of additional compensation through health care contributions (or tips, for smaller businesses).

“Mayor Murray has put forward a smart, responsible plan to raise the minimum wage, boost our local economy, and support small business success at the same time,” said Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale and a leader in the Main Street Alliance of Washington.  “The Mayor listened to small businesses who sought common ground because we know our economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down.  Mayor Murray’s plan recognizes that our local economy is stronger when low and middle class families have greater economic security and more money to spend, and provides small businesses time to reap the benefits of increasing consumer demand while transitioning to a $15 wage.”