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Seattle approved the highest minimum wage in the country by a unanimous vote on Monday; Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected the sign the bill, which he championed, on Tuesday.
Washington state already has the nation’s highest state-wide minimum wage—$9.32 an hour—but the new law will hike minimum wage jobs within the city limits up more than five dollars to $15 an hour.
The increase will take place over several years and take into account the size and benefits offered by an employer; it will hit large businesses in three years and then all businesses by 2021.
Three states have raised their minimum wage this year to the number being championed by the Democrats nationwide, $10.10 an hour; thirteen states approved minimum wage hikes in 2013 as well.
Seattle’s hike, which is expected to affect 100,000 workers, goes farther than many other cities nationwide.
The city of Seattle is about to phase in a drastic increase in the minimum wage to $15/hr, thanks to the efforts of its new socialist city councilwoman, Kshama Sawant. Seattle’s far left mayor Ed Murray has now taken up the effort, and it is expected to be passed into law by the city council soon. The increase will affect nearly 100,000 workers, including almost all fast-food workers. Around 30 percent of all jobs in Seattle currently pay less than $15/hr.
What is going on is pay-to-pay politics, led by the unions. The losing mayoral candidate, incumbent Mike McGinn, unsuccessfully tried to save his campaign with a union quid pro quo. He received a $100,000 contribution from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union 21 last year, coincidentally timed about the same time he came out publicly opposing a new Whole Foods development in West Seattle.
Almost everyone agrees that there should be a minimum wage. The question is how high it should be. At some point, forcing employers to pay low-skill workers more will lead them to fire some of them or hire fewer of them and you'll end up hurting more people than you'll help. But where is that point? Is it $8? $10? $15? $30?
This is one reason that both proponents and detractors of a much higher minimum wage should be excited to see Seattle boosting their minimum wage to $15. Though the plan is a bit less radical than its headline number — the new minimum wage phases in over six years, and as Jared Bernstein points out, that will give inflation time to erode the value of the $15 wage to about $12.21 in today's dollars — it will still make Seattle the highest minimum wage city in the country.
That gives us something to study. If Seattle's phase-in proceeds without much job loss that's more evidence that the economy can absorb a higher minimum wage. If, by contrast, Seattle sees sharp job losses compared to similar cities with lower minimum wages, or if low-wage employers begin moving outside the city lines, that will be evidence that the tradeoffs are more severe than the law's supporters hoped.