Symposium On Income Inequality Pushing Seattle Toward $15 Minimum Wage

Mar 27, 2014

Seattle is getting serious about the possibility of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A symposium on income inequality called by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray honed in on the option as a key policy question.  

Several hundred people gathered at Seattle University for Thursday's symposium, which is part of the work of the mayor’s Advisory Committee on Income Inequality.

Council member Nick Licata is one of the 24 committee members, along with representatives of small businesses, labor unions and social service agencies. He says they’re working to understand how raising the minimum wage might affect the local economy.   

“I think what we’re doing here today is really of national importance," Licata said. "There’s no other city in the nation that has pooled together council members form other cities, experts, academic experts from other cities, put them all in one room [and] invite[d] the public for an open discussion.”

Licata says the city is looking at options and tradeoffs of different ways of getting to $15 an hour, such as phasing it in gradually.

“And if we’re successful in pulling off this symposium and ultimately increasing the minimum wage in Seattle, I think we may serve as a model for the rest of the nation, which is, as the mayor said, his goal as well,” he said.

Other cities considering raising the minimum wage include San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and New York. Chicago recently held a non-binding referendum on the issue, in which 87 percent of voters approved of it for businesses with revenue of more than $50 million.

The Seattle City Council is expected to look at specific policies at the end of April.