Today, Mayor Ed Murray marked the 3-year anniversary of Seattle’s historic $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance by visiting local small businesses across the city. Since the passage of the minimum wage ordinance, Seattle’s economy continues to grow with job creation on the rise and workers taking home more income. The minimum wage hit $15 for the first time in 2017 for employees of Seattle’s largest businesses.
“When we passed the $15 minimum wage, we were warned the economy would tank, jobs would dry up, and employers would flee,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “Today, Seattle’s economy is the strongest it has ever been, unemployment is at a historically low rate, and employers are competing for employees. Raising the minimum wage was not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. We still have work to do to address the affordability crisis and to ensure that working people and families can continue to call Seattle home in the years to come.”
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour was one step in a multi-pronged approach to close the affordability gap for low-wage workers. Mayor Murray has addressed housing affordability through the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda and created the Seattle Preschool Program to provide high-quality, free education to Seattle families as part of his vision for a more equitable city. Mayor Murray also successfully passed a transportation levy that increased bus service to historic levels, helping workers connect to job centers throughout Seattle.
Seattle’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent over the last two years. Median household income increased during the same period to $80,349. Restaurants were among the fastest growing industries, employing over 33,000 people in 2016 alone.
Additionally, a study released today by the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at University of California Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance has raised wages for low-paid workers, without any negative impact on employment.
“Seattle’s $15 per hour minimum wage is a great example of good labor policy working,” said Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council. “Wages are up, businesses are hiring, and our diverse economy is thriving. We are proud to have led the way.”
Mayor Murray visited Broadcast Coffee Roasters, Central Co-Op, and Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream to celebrate the $15 minimum wage and to hear from owners and workers on the economic benefits of the ordinance.
“With 23 employees and three locations in Seattle, Broadcast Coffee Roasters supported the minimum wage increase,” said Barry Faught, founder of Broadcast Coffee. “Not only is paying a higher wage the right thing to do, it also gives folks more money in their pocket, which boosts our local economy. Since the increase of the minimum wage, Broadcast has seen sales continue to grow and employee churn go down.”
Additionally, Mayor Murray and the Office of Economic Development are examining policies to address commercial affordability, especially for small businesses. The same market pressures driving up housing costs are putting pressure on small and minority owned businesses. Last year a Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee offered several suggestions to help small businesses thrive in Seattle, even as wages increase.
“A healthy economy is one where people who work in a city can afford to live in the city,” Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development said. “Raising the minimum wage was an important step towards addressing the income gap in Seattle. I’m grateful the Seattle business community was at the table helping to raise the minimum wage. Seattle is lucky to have such progressive partners as we tackle these important issues.”
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