Capitol Hill’s Central Co-op hosted Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and a collection of officials and labor representatives Friday to mark the $15 minimum wage milestone in the city.
“I feel like this is the starting whistle for a labor movement that has become progressive, that’s fought for works, and that’s fought for the community on issue after issue,” Nicole Grant of the King County Labor Council said during her time at the mic during the small media conference inside the E Madison cooperative.
CHS reported earlier on the first wave of Seattle workers to reach the $15 minimum wage mark at large companies with more than 500 employees.
“We are very proud to play a role in the movement for providing a better, more livable wage,” Central Co-op representative Susanna Schultz said in a statement on the occasion.
“Two years after implementing the $15 per hour entry-level wage at Central Co-op, our community is stronger than ever. Higher wages are better for our employees, help with retention and recruiting, and have a positive impact on our customers and community. Introducing the higher entry-level wage and offering exceptional benefits is a testament to our cooperative identity and our commitment to upholding the values we share with our partners like United Food and Commercial Workers.”
The minimum wage process in Seattle has also accelerated changes in how business owners are managing changes in tipping and service charges.
The mayor put Seattle’s effort into a nationwide context.
“What began by a strike on the part of fast food workers and started as a movement in Sea-Tac and grew to Seattle that then led the rest of the nation, has grown into a national movement.”
Murray said he hopes the federal government does its part and raises the national minimum wage.
In a statement, newly sworn-in District 7 Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal also called for action on the federal level.
“The federal government must follow Seattle’s example,” Jayapal said. “We should listen to the hard-working men and women in the ‘Fight for 15’ movement and raise the nationwide minimum wage to $15 per hour.”
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. For many tipped employees, the minimum wage is $2.13 per hour, according to the Jayapal statement.
“I’m incredibly proud that Seattle is continuing to lead the way in the fight against income inequality,” Rep. Jayapal said. “No one should work full time and live in poverty.”
In questions with media after the addresses, Mayor Murray said recent criticism from owners like Tom Douglas of the city’s wage changes and overall business environment isn’t anything new and questioned the prolific restaurateur’s support for higher wages. “He was against it before he was for it. So there’s been some history,” Murray said.
“There are other restaurant owners who believe it has been a good experience for them, a good experience for their employees and support it,” Murray said.
“You only have to look around to see the number of restaurants that are opening.”
“This is not a city where restaurants are closing down,” he added.