Murray Announces Feisty Minimum Wage Committee; Sawant’s On It.

At a press conference this morning held by Mayor-elect Ed Murray, we didn’t get any further details of the minimum wage hike he intends to propose. What we did get, though, is the emergence of new task force that will advise him on the committee—one made of a couple dozen people holding widely divergent views.

Surpirsingly, socialist council-member elect Kshama Sawant, who unlike Murray seemed initially to brook no compromises and who two days ago gave her own press conference on the subject, is on the committee. So are business leaders like Howard Wright III, founder and CEO of the Hospitality Group. The views of advisory committee members are so divergent, in fact, that Murray conceded that they might end up with “majority” and “minority” reports instead of one unified agreement.

Asked just how much controversy there might be within the committee, Murray, speaking to SW after the press conference, conceded a lot. “This is going to rock and roll,” he said.

But what we also got was a deadline: “In four months, regardless of what happens, I’m going to send something to the committee,” Murray said.

Others on the committee include SEIU 775 president David Rolf, who will be serving as co-chair along with Wright; liberal venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who laid out the “capitalist’s case” for a $15-an-hour wage earlier this year; Tutta Bella owner Joe Fugere, who recently told SW that he “wants to be part of a solution” but isn’t sure about the $15 number; Bob Donegan, president and CEO of Ivar’s Restaurant and Councilmembers Nick Licata and Bruce Harrell.

Asked if she had any concerns that she would be co-opted, Sawant, taking a turn at the podium said “there’s always that concern.” Later, Murray laughingly said he had had dinner with Sawant last night and “I can assure you she won’t be co-opted.” Sawant seemed to prove his point when she said, “I will be working very hard within the committee and outside of the committee” (emphasis added). She repeated her commitment to an initiative if things aren’t moving fast enough and said she would take stock of the situation in April.

Murray, however, said this: “I do not want the business community and labor community to spend an extraordinary amount of money on an initiative. My hope is to avoid that process.”

Certainly there was a lot of optimism today. “We can do this,” Licata said. And Donegan, who as a member of the business community might be expected to have more reservations, stressed he wasn’t coming to the table pushing one position. “Everything’s open,” he said. “Nothing’s been decided from our perspective.”

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