Council Casts 9-0 Vote to Give City Workers $15 Min. Wage; Rejects Mayor’s Call for Phase-In

In passing a $4 billion budget for Seattle today by a 9-0 vote, the Council’s Budget Committee also unanimously approved an amendment by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, co-sponsored by Councilmember Mike O’Brien, to set aside $1.6 million over the next two years to ensure that all city workers receive a minimum of $15 per hour beginning April 1, 2015.

The Sawant amendment made good on a promise made in January by newly elected Mayor Ed Murray to bring all city workers to $15 per hour by executive order. City unions and others, including Sawant, had been urging the city in recent months to follow through on that promise. The Mayor’s proposed 2015 budget had not included funding to raise the wages of the city’s lowest paid employees to $15 per hour.

“Today we were able to finally deliver on Mayor Murray’s unfulfilled January promise,” said Sawant, whose amendment was strongly supported by the Coalition of City Union and a broad alliance of labor and community groups.

In outlining his 2015-2016 proposed city budget on Sept. 22, Murray altered course from his January declaration by recommending that the salary boost be phased in. He called for upping the wages of the lowest paid city workers to $11 in 2015, then to $13 in 2016, and finally, in 2017, granting them the full $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The Council chose a more immediate route, deciding that all city employees should be making $15 by next April, when the law takes effect.

“This was certainly not intended to be a rebuff to the Mayor,” O’Brien told Seattle Weekly. “The Mayor did a great job on getting the minimum wage law passed, but if we can get faster in getting it implemented, then that’s great. So I am excited about this budget.”

There an estimated 500 to 700 city workers affected, many of them, according one city workers’ union, earning $12.97 an hour. These include recreation attendants for Seattle Parks and Recreation, groundskeepers at city-run golf courses, parks-maintenance workers, and dining-room attendants at Seattle Center.

The Council, which will formally approve the budget on Nov. 24, kept intact many of Murray’s proposals while adding or enhancing funding for some projects and issues. These include:

$945,000 for homelessness, including $200,000 annually to provide further support for hygiene services, such as free restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities for individuals and families who are homeless
$150,000 for street outreach for homeless youth
$200,000 to implement the Mayor’s Task force recommendations
$100,000 annually to support people living in transitional encampments
$175,000 for regional partnerships to address homelessness
$120,000 annually for year-round, low-barrier shelter for homeless women
$250,000 for development of the Meridian Health Center in North Seattle, which provides integrated medical, dental, behavioral, and other services to approximately 14,000 low-income eople annually
$250,000 for the University food bank, as part of $368,000 for food programs
$300,000 annually for flexible and mobile advocates for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, estimated to serve 150 victims per year, particularly in immigrant and marginalized communities, an increase of 22% over current levels
$1.7 million in 2015-16 to assist non-profits in complying with the minimum wage ordinance
$1 million for community-outreach and education on City labor standards in 2015 and 2016
Accelerated hiring staff for enforcement of labor standards to 2015

econklin@seattleweekly.com

 
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