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City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)

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A City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative ballot question will not be on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Seattle in King County, Washington.

If approved, this measure would have raised the minimum wage in the city of Seattle to $15 per hour. The measure would have required large businesses with more than the equivalent of 250 full-time employees to begin paying all workers at least $15 per hour starting on January 1, 2015. Businesses employing less than the equivalent of 250 workers would have been able to phase in the minimum wage increase over three years, starting with $11 per hour on January 1, 2015. The initiative would have also prohibited employers from counting tips and benefits towards the minimum wage requirements and would enact provisions intended to protect workers from wage and tip theft.[1]

The group called 15 Now had threatened to force this $15 per hour minimum wage initiative onto the November ballot through an initiative petition drive if the city council did not itself enact a wage increase. The city council, however, pushed by Mayor Murray, enacted its own ordinance to increase the minimum wage. This ordinance apparently satisfied 15 Now activists, who ceased trying to collect signatures for their initiative. 15 Now had established eight action groups in preparation for the petition drive as of March 12, 2014, and the activists hoped to have 30 by the time they met for their planned "Onto the ballots, into the streets" conference on April 26, 2014. Activists began the signature gathering campaign on May 15, 2014, outside of the McDonalds in downtown Seattle.[2][3][4]

The city council unanimously approved on June 2, 2014, Mayor Murray's alternative proposal. 15 Now ceased collecting signatures for its initiative, apparently satisfied by the mayor's law.[5][6]

Proponents filed their initiative with the city clerk on April 14, 2014. The deadline for submitting the 20,638 valid signatures required to force their initiative on the ballot was July 3, 2014. 15 Now activists, led by newly elected councilmember and self-proclaimed socialist Kshama Sawant, said they would not compromise with a minimum wage of lower than $15 per hour or an increase that takes effect for big companies in phases rather than all at once. The activists, however, were satisfied by the council-enacted ordinance that allowed for a three-year phase in for large businesses.[3][2]

Jess Spear, an organizer of 15 Now and a former campaign worker for Sawant's campaign, said, “Our goal is to get a win for workers in 2014. We’re building a mass movement as a strategy to get that done.”[2]

The state minimum wage in Washington was $9.19 per hour in 2014.

In 2013, voters in the city of SeaTac narrowly approved Proposition 1, which raised the minimum wage for workers in certain industries in the city to $15 per hour.

Council-approved ordinance

On June 2, 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved, with several amendments, the minimum wage plan arrived at by Mayor Ed Murray and his Income Inequality Advisory Group. This plan takes the following steps:[7]

  • Increased the minimum wage for businesses with over 500 employees to $15 per hour over three years
  • Gave such large businesses that offer benefits four years to increase the wage to $15 per hour
  • Required businesses with fewer than 500 employees to make the jump to $15 per hour over seven years
  • Temporarily counted tips, bonuses and alternate compensation toward minimum wage, with this credit phased out over time
  • Allowed a temporary, lower training wage

The ordinance was designed to take effect 30 days after it was signed by Mayor Murray.[5]

The full text of the approved ordinance is available here.


Democracy Now, "Seattle's Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant Hails Historic Vote For $15/Hour," June 5, 2014

Responses

Kshama Sawant and 15 Now activists:

Kshama Sawant, the socialist Seattle City Council Member who originally criticized Mayor Murray's proposal because of the phased in approach and the built-in exceptions for businesses, said, "We did this. Workers did this. Today’s first victory for 15 will inspire people all over the nation."[5]

Sawant and 15 Now activists, however, have not yet announced whether they would continue their effort to put a more drastic minimum wage increase on the ballot or if they were satisfied by the phased in approach taken by the city council.[5]

The International Franchise Association:

The International Franchise Association, a trade organization based in Washington, D.C., immediately announced a lawsuit against Seattle after the council approved the minimum wage ordinance. The association disapproved of the difference in wage requirements based on the number of employees, arguing that this provision is unfair to businesses that have chosen to go the franchise route.[8]

Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, said:[8]

The Seattle City Council and Mayor Murray's plan would force the 600 franchisees in Seattle, which own 1,700 franchise locations employing 19,000 workers, to adopt the full $15 minimum wage in 3 years, while most other small business owners would have seven years to adopt the $15 wage.

These hundreds of franchise small business owners are being punished simply because they chose to operate as franchisees. Decades of legal precedent have held that franchise businesses are independently owned businesses and are not operated by the brand's corporate headquarters.[9]

—Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association[8]

Veto referendum petitions:

There were also two petition efforts to collect signatures for a veto referendum against Mayor Murray's minimum wage law. Forward Seattle, a group of small business owners, raised enough money to hire 80 paid circulators in an attempt to collect the 16,510 required signatures by July 3, 2014. The group turned in just under 20,000 signatures, but on July 15, 2014, the King County Elections Office announced that fewer than the required 16,510 were found to be valid. Angela Cough, co-owner of the Flying Apron Gluten Free and Vegan Bakery in Fremont and the co-chair of Forward Seattle, said, “We don’t have much time, this is our last opportunity to try to do something about this and make sure we are heard." She also stated that she supports a minimum wage increase, but not one so drastic as $15 per hour. Craig Keller, a Seattle resident, started his own separate petition drive working with volunteers, rather than paid signature gatherers. His effort only yielded several hundred signatures. Even these signatures combined with the Forward Seattle signatures would not have been enough to qualify the referendum for the ballot.[10][11]

Support

15 Now website header

Supporters

Arguments in favor

15 Now activists and supporters of the proposed initiative argue that workers need $15 per hour and that, because many city workers are in poverty, they need it sooner rather than later. Moreover, supporters want to avoid loopholes by prohibiting companies from counting tips, benefits and other perks towards the minimum wage, ensuring that workers are not being mistreated or underpaid. In response to concerns about what such a minimum wage hike will do to the job market and the economy, supporters posit that the increased wages will result in more consumers and more money spent at local businesses, which will offset the increased cost for employers.[2]

In opposition to the alternate measures proposed, Sawant said, "We need to fight to make the phase-in period shorter. These are not just numbers. These are lives."[4]

Opposition

One Seattle logo
  • One Seattle Coalition[12]

Arguments against

The One Seattle Coalition was formed to oppose the initiative backed by 15 Now. The coalition, which consists of small businesses and has the support of large businesses and the Washington Restaurant Association, urged the mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee to approve a $15 per hour minimum wage, but with certain qualifications. The coalition argued that the issue is very complicated and that the city must be careful to increase the minimum wage in a gentle way in order to avoid job loss due to companies closing down and implementing hiring freezes. The coalition looked to Mayor Ed Murray and his Income Inequality Advisory Committee to come up with a measure that was acceptable to 15 Now activists and the business owners in Seattle.[13]

Louise Cernin, president of the Greater Seattle Business Association, which is a member of One Seattle, said, "It's easy to have slogans and numbers, but it's a complex issue. Making big leaps at any one time can harm the people we're trying to help."[13]

Alternate measure

Mayor Ed Murray established an Income Inequality Advisory Committee that, although unable to agree for a while, finally approved a minimum wage increase proposal with an affirmative vote from 21 out of 24 members of the committee. Key provisions of Murray's proposal and the 15 Now initiative are outlined below.[7]

15 Now proposal v. Murray proposal

Sawant and 15 Now - Sawant and 15 Now propose an initiative that would:[1]

  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour for businesses with over 250 employees immediately
  • Allow three years to phase in the wage increase for businesses with fewer than 250 employees
  • Prohibit businesses from counting tips, commissions, bonuses and benefits towards the minimum wage
  • Enact provisions intended to protect workers from wage and tip theft



Murray's proposal - Mayor Murray's advisory committee proposed a measure that would:[7]

  • Increase the minimum wage for businesses with over 500 employees to $15 per hour over three years
  • Give such large businesses that offer benefits four years to increase the wage to $15 per hour
  • Require businesses with fewer than 500 employees to make the jump to $15 per hour over seven years
  • Temporarily count tips, bonuses and alternate compensation toward minimum wage, with this credit phased out over time

Path to alternate measure

Mayor Ed Murray was in favor of a minimum wage increase and created an Income Inequality Advisory Committee to work with the city council toward a minimum wage increase proposal. 15 Now activists announced that they would listen to the mayor's proposal, but would be standing by with signatures to force their own initiative before voters if the mayor's plan had too many qualifications and did not satisfy minimum wage activists. The One Seattle Coalition was pushing the mayor and city council to support a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour with the following qualifications:[13]

  • An phased-in approach to raising the minimum wage
  • A temporary training wage allowed at a lower rate
  • The ability to count health care, commissions, tips and bonuses towards total wages and the $15 per hour minimum

The mayor predicted that his committee would have a finalized proposal sometime between April 24, 2014, and the first of May. On April 24, 2014, however, Mayor Murray announced that his 24-member advisory committee had been unable to arrive at a consensus on an alternate minimum wage measure proposal. Murray said, "We're stuck at the moment. I'd rather be late and get it right than rush it and get it wrong." He also expressed the wish to achieve a super-majority agreement among his committee and said he would put his own, independent proposal before the city council if the group failed to collaborate to that extent.[13][14]

15 Now activists expressed doubt about the mayor's committee and the business coalition working with it. They stood by to reject its proposal if it was too watered down and were prepared to force their own initiative onto the ballot. Referring to the many proposed qualifications likely to appear in the mayor's measure, Jess Spear, a 15 Now organizer, said, "There's so much support for 15 they can't oppose it now. What they are trying to do is change it so they don't have to pay 15."[13]

On April 30, 2014, Mayor Murray announced that 21 out of the 24 members of his advisory committee had agreed on a plan that would phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business in question and alternate compensation such as tips and benefits. After the wage reached $15 per hour, it would be tied to the Consumer Price Index and would, according to estimates, reach $18 per hour for all employees by 2025.[7]

The plan would give businesses with over 500 employees three years to increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour. Such businesses that offer health benefits would be given four years. Smaller business would have seven years to implement the changes. The proposal would also temporarily allow tips, commissions and other benefits to count towards the minimum wage, with this credit eliminated over time.[7]

Sawant, one of the three members of the committee who did not approve of the plan, called Murray's final proposal "watered down." She urged her followers and the 15 Now organization to continue to collect signatures for their own initiative that would implement an immediate jump to a $15 per hour minimum wage for businesses with over 250 employees. Sawant said, “Every year of a phase-in means yet another year in poverty for a worker. Our work is far from done.”[15]

According to a study done by the University of Washington, about 30,000 city residents work for companies that have more than 500 employees, which amounts to only about a third of city workers that have a wage of lower than $15 per hour.[16]

The plan proposed by Murray would increase the minimum wage according to the following table:[7]

SeattleMinimumwagealternatemeasure.jpg

The advisory committee

Mayor Murry's Income Inequality Advisory Committee consisted of the following individuals and representatives:[7]

  • David Rolf (co-chair), SEIU 775
  • Howard Wright (co-chair), Seattle Hospitality Group
  • Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
  • Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell
  • Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant
  • Janet Ali, Nucor Steel
  • Sarah Cherin, UFCW 21
  • Maud Daudon, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
  • Craig Dawson, Retail Lockbox
  • Bob Donegan, Ivar’s Restaurant
  • David Freiboth, Dr. Martin Luther King County Labor Council
  • Joe Fugere, Tutta Bella
  • Audrey Haberman, Philanthropy Northwest
  • Nick Hanauer, Second Avenue Partners
  • Pramila Jayapal, Center for Community Change
  • Eric Liu, Citizen University
  • Gordon McHenry, Solid Ground
  • Dave Meinert, Onto Entertainment
  • Craig Schafer, Hotel Andra
  • Diane Sosne, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
  • Nicole Vallestero Keenan, Puget Sound Sage
  • David Watkins, Seattle Hotel Association
  • Michael Wells, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce
  • Ronald Wilkowski, Financial Services

Daudon, Dawson and Sawant were the only committee members that did not approve of Murray's final plan. Sawant and local business owner Craig Dawson voted against the proposal, and Daudon, representing the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, abstained from voting.[7]

Background

Kshama Sawant

Kshama Sawant, a self-proclaimed socialist, made a minimum wage increase a key element of her campaign and subsequently won an upset election in November 2013 against incumbent Richard Conlin to earn a spot on the Seattle City Council.

SeattleMinimumwagechart.png
City of Seattle, City Council, Position 2, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Socialist Alternative Green check mark transparent.pngKshama Sawant 50.9% 93,682
     Democratic Richard Conlin Incumbent 49.1% 90,531
Total Votes 184,213

Reports and analyses

University of Washington

Note: The report referred to below was requested and funded by the city of Seattle and is largely based on 2007 census data.

A report released by the University of Washington shows that about 102,000 Seattle workers, which amounts to 24 percent of employees, earn less than $15 per hour. The report said the approval of a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative would raise the wage of these workers, as well as the wage of employees earning in the next tier. If, as the report suggests, those making between $15 an $18 per hour also see wage increases, the number of affected residents estimated by the report rises to 136,000.[17]

Polls

Chamber of Commerce

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce conducted a poll in February 2014 among the 2,000 businesses that are chamber members. The survey asked employers about their likely response to a $15 per hour minimum wage. Out of the 283 employers who were voluntarily surveyed, 60 percent stated they would reduce or eliminate new jobs, raise the standards of entry-level hiring, reduce or eliminate benefits from many positions or make other changes in compensation and hiring policy. Over 140 employers said they would be pushed to raise prices if a $15 per hour minimum wage was enacted.[18]

The full results of the survey showed the following relevant statistics concerning a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour from the perspective of employers:[19]

  • A connection to lack of higher education: 64% of employees earning less than $15/hour have, at most, some high school or a high school diploma
  • Benefits are a critical component of compensation: on average, benefits make up 23% of total compensation
  • 74 percent of companies offer medical benefits as part of total compensation for employee who earn less than $15/hour
  • 43 percent of employers who would make a change following an increase to $15/hour would reduce or eliminate employee benefits
  • Small businesses will be greatly impacted: 37 percent of employers offering less than $15/hour in total compensation have 50 or fewer employees
  • Most companies will make more than one change in response to the increase: 60% of companies will consider multiple changes (reduce/eliminate new positions, increase standards for entry level positions, reduce/eliminate benefits)
  • Prices will go up: 50 percent of companies will increase prices for goods and services to offset a rise in the minimum wage

[9]

—Terri Hiroshima of Seattle Chamber of Commerce[19]

EMC Research

EMC Research conducted detailed polling research on the $15 per hour minimum wage debate in Seattle between May 4 - May 8, 2014. Below are some key findings of the research:[20]

The study, conducted through a phone survey of 550 likely November voters, found that 83 percent followed the $15 per hour minimum wage debate, with 56% following somewhat closely, 27% following very closely, 14% not following closely and 3% not following at all.[20]

Overall support

The study found that support for a $15 per hour minimum wage is strong, having increased from 68% in January of 2014 to 74% in May of 2014:[20]

Excerpt from May EMC Research
Poll Strongly support Somewhat supportSomewhat opposeStrongly opposeundecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Seattle $15/hr minimum wage
May 2014
38%35%12%12%2%+/-4.9550
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org


Specific proposals

The study went on, however, to ask about each of the three different proposals for increasing the minimum wage being put forward in the city. EMC employees asked each person surveyed about the proposals in a random order. The three proposals were:[20]

  • Mayor Murray's proposal, seeking a phased-in approach for the minimum wage increase, with the increase taking effect in between three and seven years, depending on business size. It would also temporarily allow businesses to count tips and other benefits towards the minimum wage.
  • The 15 Now initiative, requiring an immediate minimum wage increase for businesses with over 250 employees and allowing three years for smaller businesses to increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour. It would not allow tips or other benefits to apply towards the minimum wage.
  • The One Seattle Coalition proposal, seeking an eight-year, phased-in approach to the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour and a permanent credit for tips, commissions and other benefits. It would also allow a lower, temporary training wage.

The likely voters surveyed were first presented with a brief summary of each proposal and asked whether they would vote for or against it. Then they were presented with a slightly more in depth explanation and an argument in favor of the proposal and asked against whether they supported or opposed the measure. The poll showed the best results for Mayor Murray's proposal and the worst results for the One Seattle proposal. The 15 Now proposal went from 45% approval with the short summary to 50% approval with the explanation and argument. Below are the percentages for each proposal with a brief summary and with the explanation and argument:[20]

Murray's proposal:

Excerpt from EMC Research Poll on Murray's proposal
Poll Support OppositionMargin of ErrorSample Size
Mayor Murray's proposal with brief summary
May 4-8, 2014
57%43%+/-4.9550
Mayor Murray's proposal with explanation and argument
May 4-8, 2014
66%33%+/-4.9550
AVERAGES 61.5% 38% +/-4.9 550
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org


15 Now initiative:

Excerpt from EMC Research Poll on 15 Now initiative
Poll Support OppositionMargin of ErrorSample Size
15 Now initiative with brief summary
May 4-8, 2014
45%55%+/-4.9550
15 Now initiative with explanation and argument
May 4-8, 2014
50%49%+/-4.9550
AVERAGES 47.5% 52% +/-4.9 550
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org


One Seattle Coalition proposal:

Excerpt from EMC Research Poll on OneSeattle's proposal
Poll Support OppositionMargin of ErrorSample Size
OneSeattle's proposal with brief summary
May 4-8, 2014
41%58%+/-4.9550
OneSeattle's proposal with explanation and argument
May 4-8, 2014
44%55%+/-4.9550
AVERAGES 42.5% 56.5% +/-4.9 550
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org


Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Washington

The deadline for submitting the 20,638 valid signatures required to force the 15 Now initiative on the ballot is in July 2014. Although a committee created by Mayor Murray was unable to agree at first, on April 30, 2014, Mayor Murray announced that 21 out of the 24 members of his advisory committee had agreed on a plan that would phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business in question and alternate compensation such as tips and benefits. Kshama Sawant cast a dissenting vote against the plan and urged her followers to continue collecting signatures for their own initiative.[7][21]

If the council does not approve a $15 minimum wage that satisfies them by July, 15 Now activists, led by newly elected council member and self-proclaimed socialist Kshama Sawant, plan to force a city vote on the issue. Proponents filed their initiative with the city clerk on April 14, 2014. The group began collecting signatures in May of 2014 in order to be prepared to force an initiative ballot measure if the city council does not pass an immediate $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance.[3][2][22][1]

Similar measures

Local

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Act of 2014 Initiative (November 2014)
Approveda Philadelphia Minimum Wage Ordinance, Proposition 1 (May 2014)
Approveda City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)
Approveda SeaTac "Good Jobs Initiative", Proposition 1 (November 2013)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Richmond Minimum Wage Increase Ballot Question (November 2014)

Statewide

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot California Minimum Wage Supplement for Home Health Workers (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Idaho Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Missouri Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot New Mexico Minimum Wage Amendment (2014)


See also

External links

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Basic info

Support

Opposition

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Puget Sound Business Journal, "15 Now taking steps toward Seattle minimum wage ballot measure," April 14, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Fellowship of the Minds, "Pass $15 wage in Seattle or we’ll put it on ballot," archived March 12, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 15 now website, accessed March 13, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 KUOW.org, "Signature Campaign Begins For $15 Minimum Wage Initiative," May 16, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 The Seattle Times, "Seattle City Council approves historic $15 minimum wage," June 2, 2014
  6. The Stranger, "Signature Gatherers Are Trying to Repeal Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage," July 2, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 The Seattle Times, "Mayor Murray announces his $15 wage plan," May 1, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Reuters, "UPDATE 3-Seattle approves hike in minimum wage to $15 per hour," June 2, 2014, archived June 20, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  10. KUOW., "New Frontiers On The Minimum Wage Fight," June 25, 2014
  11. The Stranger, "Referendum on the $15 Minimum Wage Will Not Go to the Ballot This Year," July 15, 2014
  12. One Seattle Coalition website, accessed April 21, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Oregon Live, "Seattle minimum wage increase on track, but business group weighing in," April 20, 2014
  14. ABC News, "Seattle Stymied in Efforts to Raise Minimum Wage," April 24, 2014
  15. The New York Times, "Seattle Mayor Details Plan for $15 Minimum Wage," May 1, 2014
  16. The Spokesman-Review, "Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposes phase-in to $15 minimum wage," May 2, 2014
  17. The Seattle Times, "Study: $15 wage floor would lift pay for 24% of Seattle workers," March 24, 2014
  18. Puget Sound Business Journal, "$15 wage? Poll shows Seattle employers might cut jobs, benefits," April 11, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 Seattle Chamber of Commerce website, "Results from Chamber Member Survey on Minimum Wage Further Reveal Complexity of Issue," April 11, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 EMC Research, "New Polling on $15 Minimum Wage," archived May 17, 2014
  21. Seattle Weekly News, "15 Now Turns Up the Heat; Demands Answers from Howard Wright," March 13, 2014
  22. Kirotv, "Organization demanding $15 min. wage to file initiative Monday," April 13, 2014