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Seattle mayoral challenger supports gradual increase to $15 minimum wage

This fast-food worker was one of many who joined protests in major cities this summer, including Seattle, demanding higher wages. In Seattle, some workers want the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. Both Mayor Mike McGinn and challenger Ed Murry support the increase, but differ in the way it should be implemented. (File photo AP/Nick Ut)

In announcing his economic plan for Seattle, mayoral candidate and State Senator Ed Murray described how he would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Murray announced his Economic Opportunity Agenda, which would raise minimum wages not only for fast-food chains but for “big-box businesses” too.

He also introduced the idea of having employers who don’t offer health care benefits pay a higher wage to its workers.

“I grew up in a large, Irish Catholic, working-class family and today we could not afford to live here,” Murray says.

Murray does not want small companies to suffer adverse effects by paying their workers more per hour, so he suggests taking “years” to implement the increase.

“I don’t think you phase it in all at once and I think you exempt small businesses. We need to help employees but at the same time not drive businesses out of Seattle and into the rest of the region.”

Murray compared the approach to the many years it took – 17 – to pass a same-sex marriage law in Washington. But he wants the effort to raise wages to move along faster than the marriage equality effort.

“If the city adopted a $15 minimum right away, we would end up in a labor-business war,” he says.

Asked how many years he was talking about, Murray said, “It’s not going to take 17 years.”

Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn also supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour as activist groups have been calling for, but he thinks it’s an issue for Olympia first before the City of Seattle acts on its own.

McGinn has won the endorsements of two major labor unions which are behind the “living wage” fight – the United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, representing hotel workers.


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