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Seattle business group proposes smaller alternative to $15 minimum wage

With some warning a $15 an hour minimum wage could drive small businesses out business, a new group is proposing an alternative in Seattle that would instead start the minimum wage at $11 an hour for small businesses.

The newly formed “Forward Seattle” appears to be an anonymous group of small, independent businesses. Its website describes the group as a “non-partisan, self-funded, grassroots organization representing local, independent businesses – from restaurants to retail and everything in between – who need a unified voice in Seattle’s minimum wage debate. ”

The group says it formed to counter the $15 an hour movement championed by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and others and provide “a real solution that increases Seattle’s minimum wage.”

“Forward Seattle advocates an increase in the minimum wage that is gradual, sustainable, responsible and measurable,” it says.

Under its proposal, SBA-defined small businesses would pay $11 an hour starting January 1, 2015, with annual adjustments through 2017. Tips, bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing would all get counted towards a minimum wage under the plan, and the state minimum wage would be retained for all tipped and commission workers.

The group says it believes that “big business” can handle an increase to $12.50 by next year.

The group proposes a phase-in for non-profits, and says no exceptions would be made for collective bargaining agreements or unions. It would provide training wages, including a rate for workers under 18 years of age.

“Forward Seattle says the policy must be measured, evaluated and reported upon for actual impact on low-wage earners prior to adopting new policy beyond 2017.”

The group has not responded to requests for comment, but its proposal is sure to be a hot topic in upcoming community forums such as the city symposium on minimum wage hosted last week by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

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