City Council Passes Landmark $15-An-Hour Min-Wage Bill

As expected, the Seattle City Council this afternoon passed the historic $15-an-hour minimum-wage bill that Mayor Murray and the City has spent months hammering out. With all nine Council members in attendance (Councilmember Tom Rasmussen was late), the minimum wage bill was approved unanimously, even earning the endorsement of socialist Kshama Sawant by the time the dust settled. The vote followed the failed introduction of amendments favored by Sawant to quicken implementation of the bill (4-5), remove training wages (4-5), remove the tip credit (1-8), and speed-up the process for requiring big business to reach a $15-an-hour minimum wage (1-8). The legislation is now scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2015.

Opening today’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting to boisterous cheers, Council President Tim Burgess called order and got to business. After two quick proclamations - one in support of Pride Month, which will be eventually be signed by Seattle’s first openly gay mayor - the public comment portion of today’s meeting was raucous and predictable. Those who spoke were staunchly in favor of the minimum wage hike, and urgent in expressing the need to institute it quickly and without business-friendly “corporate loopholes” like a training wage, tip credit, and the three-month delay in implementation. Chants like “Tip credit? Forget it!” were commonplace between speakers.

“What 15 means is workers like me are able to afford basic necessities,” a Target employee named Hanna told the Council, citing things like shoes, dentist visits and retirement. “I don’t want to work until I die.” When Hanna revealed she’d gone on strike from Target as part of the fight, she received a powerful standing ovation.

In introducing the legislation, Councilmember Sally Clark noted, “No city or state has gone this far with minimum wage ... yet. ... We all must be invested in making this work [in Seattle].”

Throughout the meeting, it was more than obvious differences still exist on the Council - and between the council and the $15-an-hour minimum wage supporters in attendance (Councilmember Harrell spoke particularly harshly on the subject) - but when it came time to vote the message was clear: Seattle has made tackling income inequality a top priority, and today was a huge day in that fight. The 9-0 vote spoke loudest of all.

“Today workers in Seattle have made history,” Sawant noted just prior to the final vote. “We did this. Workers did this!”

It was hard not to agree with her.

A celebratory dance party at City Hall followed today’s vote (naturally). We’ll have photos and reaction from the festivities posted shortly.

UPDATE: As promised, supporters of Seattle's new $15-an-hour minimum-wage bill gathered outside City Hall following today's vote, enjoying cake, ice cream, and high-fives. With large speakers filling the sunny afternoon air with the triumphant tunes of Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us," and Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" - among other victory jams - Mayor Ed Murray, after cutting the celebratory cake, briefly spoke to the crowd, telling those in attendance that "Today marks a beginning, not an end." A large $15 sign was then raised high, to the cheers of many.

"The rest of the nation will follow us," the Murray exclaimed, vowing to "Make [Seattle] once again a progressive city.

"Let's start a new tomorrow."

Moments later, Councilmember Kshama Sawant issued her own statement, striking a victorious stance while also noting the work she sees as yet to be done.

"Our victory is not complete, but we have fought until the last day, the last hour, against all the loopholes demanded by business," Sawant's statement read in part. "We’ll come back to the questions of tip penalty, the long-phase in, the training wage. ... But today’s message is clear: If we organize as workers, with a socialist strategy, we can tackle the chasm of income inequality and social injustice. ... 15 in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win."

Here are a few photos from the party:

 
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