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Seattle mayor says he struck a deal for a $15 minimum wage

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray discusses the proposal at a news conference last Thursday. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced plans Thursday to increase the minimum wage to $15 there, which would place it among of the highest in the nation.

The plan would give businesses with fewer than 500 employees seven years to comply and larger businesses three years. Further increases would be tied to inflation.

“Throughout this process, I’ve had two goals: to get Seattle’s low-wage workers to $15-per-hour while also supporting our employers, and to avoid a costly battle at the ballot box between competing initiatives,” Murray said in a statement. “We have a deal that I believe accomplishes both goals.”

The plan has the support of 21 of the 24 members of an income inequality panel convened in December and whose members include employer, labor and nonprofit representatives. As recently as last week, talks to raise the wage appeared to be stuck.

“This has been a long process of give-and-take leading to an agreement that will help to narrow the income gap facing our middle class,” said Howard Wright, co-chair of the IIAC and CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group in a statement.

By the time the $15 minimum wage kicks in for smaller employers in seven years, a minimum wage worker in Seattle will be making at least $4 more per hour — and $6,240 more per year — than similar workers elsewhere in the state, the mayor said in a statement.

Washington is home to the nation’s highest state minimum wage, at $9.32 an hour. As of April 8, 38 states had considered minimum wage bills in 2014, with 34 of them considering increases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia have passed increases. Hawaii is expected to join that list after legislators approved a future hike Tuesday to $10.10, the level President Obama has pushed for nationwide. Workers in several states will see minimum wages of at least $10 in several states within a few years.

States and cities have led the charge as federal legislation has languished. San Francisco started the year with a $10.74 minimum wage, while Sante Fe’s hit $10.66 on March 1. A $15 minimum wage went into effect for some workers on Jan. 1 in SeaTac, the small city that is home to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.

The Seattle proposal must be passed by the City Council and will be heard by a council wage and inequality committee next Monday.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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