Tips and health insurance would count towards a $15 an hour minimum wage and extra time would be given to small businesses to implement it under a plan that emerged from closed door negotiations at City Hall, sources close to the process told CHS on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Ed Murray said he and his minimum wage task force were committed to a set of principles on charting a path to $15 as part of a broader fight to addressing the country’s shrinking middle class, but that he still wanted more members to back an unspecified plan.
CHS has now learned details of that proposal, although sources say many parts are still in motion. On Friday morning The Stranger also reported on the proposal, which would require all employers to phase-in a $15 an hour minimum wage with no inflationary adjustment during the phase-in period.
The plan offers a two-pronged approach for both small businesses and large, 500+ employee businesses.
Small businesses that offer health insurance or have tipped employees would get to count those benefits towards a minimum wage and get seven years to phase-in all employees to at least $15 an hour. Small businesses with no health insurance or tipped workers would be given a five-year phase-in period.
Large businesses would face similar options, with a four-year phase-in for employers of tipped or insured workers, and a three-year phase-in for those without tipped or insured workers.
The negotiations also reportedly are setting the groundwork for the next phase as the City Council must pound out legislation to make the final framework a reality. The process to achieve consensus on the committee recommendations is also an effort to galvanize the business, labor and nonprofit groups involved to support the plan once it is taken up by Council later this year. The mayor will veto any legislation that significantly deviates from the final recommended plan, a source involved with the discussions but not yet authorized to speak with the media told CHS.
If the consensus holds and the plans don’t prove untenable in the political arena ahead, the majority-backed proposal’s elements appear to be major wins for the Capitol Hill food and drink-focused small business community.
Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce director Michael Wells and and Lost Lake owner David Meinert are members of the Income Inequality Task Force. Meanwhile, a charter amendment so activists can begin the process of collecting thousands of signatures to put the issue on the ballot this fall.
Negotiations over how to implement a $15 an hour minimum wage continued into stoppage time on Friday as the mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee failed to reach consensus in time for a planned Thursday announcement.