The Seattle City Council is scheduled to vote today on a historic plan to raise the minimum wage to a nation's-highest $15 an hour.
Washington already has the highest state minimum wage at $9.32 an hour, well above the federal minimum of $7.25. The Seattle plan would phase in the higher, local minimum wage over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business and benefits they provide employees.
City officials estimate that about a quarter of workers earn less than $15 an hour. Full-time work at that rate translates to about $31,000 a year.
"A year ago, $15 was just a number on fast food strikers' picket signs," Working Washington, a coalition of labor and community groups, said in a statement issued Monday. "Today it's set to become reality for 100,000 Seattle workers."
Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, a key backer of the effort, says the city is a prosperous but costly place to live.
"Fifteen dollars is a very conservative number that we know for certain the economy can support," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Fifteen is a good solid number for a place like this, but probably is too much for a small town in Arkansas where living costs are much, much, much lower."
The ordinance was drafted by an advisory group of labor, business and non-profit professionals. In a contentious meeting last week, a City Council committee agreed to delay implementation of the ordinance from Jan. 1 to April 1. They rejected amendments that would have sped up phase-ins as well and would have excluded tips from total compensation. The council also approved a sub-minimum wage for teenagers.
The plan was approved unanimously by the City Council members at the meeting, indicating that passage into law is likely.
"Seattle, and other cities, are taking direct action to close our nation's huge income gap because the federal and state governments have failed to do so," City Councilman Nick Licata said. "By significantly raising the minimum wage, Seattle's prosperity will be shared by more people and create a sustainable model for continued growth."
Crystal Thompson, 33, told The Seattle Times she has been working at a local Domino's Pizza for five years and still makes minimum wage. She says her responsibilities have grown, and she sometimes is responsible for opening and closing the store.
"I think I deserve a raise," she told the Times.
Contributing: Associated Press