The race to figure out the minimum-wage debate in Seattle is ramping up as the mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee prepares to hand over its recommendation and Mayor Ed Murray makes his move from there.
The 15 Now movement has gained surprisingly quick and successful momentum — from the fast-food workers’ strikes and approved minimum-wage increase in Sea-Tac, to Seattle city officials like Mayor Ed Murray and Kshama Sawant championing the movement.
And, last week, the 15 Now campaign filed a motion for a ballot measure in November. According to The Stranger, the 15 Now campaign has threatened to file a ballot measure unless city leaders can pass legislation that the activists will support. So if the City Council creates a measure for $15 minimum wage that doesn’t please the activists, the campaign could go forward with a much-stricter, straight-forward ballot measure that could cancel out all of the city’s work. 15 Now campaigners have called the ballot measure “a backup plan.” There’s also a chance there’d be a ballot measure to counter the 15 Now campaign, too.
This is a critical time for Seattle to be smart about the moves it makes. As the minimum-wage debate heats up across the county, we are taking the most extreme stance on it, with advocates calling for a 60-percent increase on the current state minimum wage. There is a great income divide in our country, state and city, and it needs to be addressed. We see income inequality in wages, health care, rents and access to education, and, yet, minimum wage only directly addresses one of those. Of course, higher wage can lead to better living conditions and education. But we need to look at every avenue that can address these problems, especially cost of living. The housing and rental market is spiraling out of control and pushing even those who make a decent wage farther and farther from the city. We need to get the market under control and make sure that people can afford to both live and work here.
Wages absolutely need to increase to address increased costs and inflation, but we also need to be smart about it. The City Council should offer a phase-in solution for small businesses and push the state to address the high business taxes that often push the mom-and-pops out. We value our small independent businesses and restaurants, and we need to protect them with options that allow them to provide a fair wage while still keeping their doors open.
City officials should heed the activists but take their time to understand the situation for low-wage workers and business owners alike.
Hindsight is 20/20, but we shouldn’t be running blind, either.