Seattle City Council Raises Min. Wage for City Employees to $15/hr for 2015
Updated On: Nov 20, 2014
Congratulations to our Brothers and Sisters in LiUNA Local 1239 for their victory today in Seattle City Council. This victory will lift hundreds of people out of poverty, taking many of them off the rolls of welfare and food stamps, and will be good for the economy of the Greater Seattle area.
LiUNA Local 792 (UPEC), will continue to push politicians in the districts we represent workers to raise the wages for our lowest paid employees, just as Local 1239 has done in Seattle.We believe that people who bust their tails for 40+ hours week deserve to not live in poverty. People who work full time ought not to be eligible for food stamps and welfare. We will not rest until our members (and all workers) are given a fair wage for a fair day's work.
"The Seattle City Council on Friday agreed to provide slightly over $1 million so that Seattle’s lowest-paid city workers will be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage as of April 1, 2015, rather than phasing in the wage over three years as proposed by Mayor Ed Murray.
Socialist City Council member Kshama Sawant: “This is becoming a 1 percent city.” (AP photo)
The Budget Committee, consisting of all nine council members, agreed on a series of modifications that increase Murray’s proposed budget, particularly in the fields of homelessness and social services. The panel will take final action on Monday.
City employees who stand to benefit could “certainly use the money rather than be a drain on social services,” Ian Gordon of Laborers Local 1239, which represents many of the workers, told council members.
The Friday morning meeting underscored that Seattle is a generous city, especially toward those living in the streets, at-risk young people and victims of domestic abuse.
Still, it featured harsh language toward the industry, commerce and growth that have put the Emerald City in a position to be so generous. A much-mentioned statistic, that King County has 68,000 millionaires, was treated as a mark of shame.
“Working people are being forced out of the city,” said socialist council member Kshama Sawant. She warned that Seattle is on a path to becoming a city where “only the rich and especially white people can live.”
During the comment period, members of Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party proposed that council members and Murray take a $50,000 pay cut, with one activist coining the jingoistic slogan: “Run the city for the millions, not the millionaires.”
With all nine council seats up next year, the move to an immediate $15-an-hour wage — made in a “modification” offered by council members Mike O’Brien, Jean Godden and Sawant — drew little opposition.
City Council members Tim Burgess, Jean Godden and Sally Bagshaw. Bagshaw championed adding money to city budget for a women’s homeless shelter.
Only council member Sally Clark suggested that that members were “cherry picking” by picking out one group to get a benefit, rather than allowing it to be negotiated by the city and its unions. ”It bothers me,” she said, but not enough to vote against the package.
“The city should be advocating for workers,” Sawant shot back. ”This is the right thing to do. We should do it.”
The money to support the $15-an-hour wage will be put in the budget. The actual agreement to raise wages must be formalized between unions and the city. The council will then have to pass an ordinance to approve the higher wage.
“This appropriation does not implement,” noted council president Tim Burgess.
Another budget “modification” called for the city to “investigate the legality of taxing the incomes of those earning $1 million a year or more.”
Burgess intervened with a reality check. ”Washington law is very clear,” he said. “Cities do not have an authority to impose an income tax even if it is called an excise tax. … The Legislature has specifically denied cities the ability to do so.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: He signed executive order that all city employees get a $15-an-hour minimum wage, but proposed three-year phase in. The council put up money to begin wage on April 1, 2015.
Sawant responded with rhetoric about the “68,000 households” that (allegedly) earn $1 million or more, and concluding: ”This is becoming a 1 percent city.”
The council’s greatest budget tinkering with Murray’s $1 billion general fund budget came in the field of homelessness.
It has added $150,000 in “outreach for homeless youth,” plus $206,000 to pay for “hygiene for the homeless,” and $250,000 for the Meridian Health Center in North Seattle, which provides a variety of medical services to low-income Seattleites.
The council included $120,000 for a “low-barrier shelter for homeless women,” as well as $100,000 to support homeless encampments.
Clark suggested that the council hold off on the shelter for homeless women, saying: ”My pitch is to park this money until we see the results.” Murray has a task force on homelessness due to report in December.
The pitch fell on cold ears on a cold day, of a sort that forces the homeless to seek shelter. The shelter budget “modification” was approved on a 7-2 vote, with Clark and Burgess voting against.
Its champion, council member Sally Bagshaw, tweeted a tribute to her socialist colleague, saying: ”Let’s move forward to fund shelter for homeless women. Thank you, Kshama Sawant for partnering on this.”
Sawant wasn’t of a mood to share credit. She put out a statement, headlined: “Council Budget Committee passes $15 Sawant plan,” claiming credit for making good on Murray’s “unfulfilled promise.” No mention was made of O’Brien and Godden."