Mayor Murray proposes end to subminimum wage for people with disabilities

Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park) announced the City of Seattle will change the Minimum Wage ordinance to prevent employers from paying any worker with a disability less than Seattle’s minimum wage. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) will begin rule revisions to the ordinance this month, to propose elimination of special certificates permitting subminimum wages for certain employees with disabilities, which are currently allowed under the law.

“The point of our historic $15 minimum wage law was to build universal equity in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “A loophole allowing subminimum wages for disabled workers has undermined that goal. We are correcting that error to make good on our promise and our values.”

“Subminimum wages are an outdated practice that inherently devalue the employee receiving them,” said Councilmember Herbold. “With so few subminimum wage certificates issued to employers, now is the perfect time to end this practice and lead the region in ending this discriminatory policy.”

The ordinance as currently enacted mirrors Washington state law, permitting employers to pay less than minimum wage. The Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities voted unanimously at its June meeting to end this exemption. OLS Director Dylan Orr, who served for more than five years at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), including two years as chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), supports the rule revisions.

“I commend the continued commitment on behalf of the Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities, the Mayor’s Office, and City Council to act quickly,” said Orr. “We must remind ourselves that when one person or group is marginalized or discriminated against, we all are.”

The proposed subminimum wage revisions are part of a larger effort to update Chapter 90 Rules to reflect legislation passed during the 2017 budget process establishing OLS as an independent office; changes resulting from the Wage Theft Prevention and Harmonization Ordinance of 2015; revisions to Washington State’s minimum wage law resulting from Initiative 1433; and to address service charges and employer payments toward individual employee’s medical benefits plans; and other requests for clarification from the public. OLS issued these revisions for notice and comment in late February 2017. OLS will issue further draft revisions to Chapter 90 Rules for notice and comment in August 2017. The Council will receive and vote on omnibus legislation, including the subminimum wage revisions, from OLS before the end of the year.

 

 

 

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Mayor Murray marks 3-year anniversary of $15 minimum wage

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 RoastersCentral 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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Mayor Murray marks milestone for Seattle’s minimum wage

Seattle’s minimum wage increased to $15 per hour on January 1 for employees working for the largest businesses in the city. Mayor Ed Murray marked the increase today, which is a milestone for the 2014 minimum wage ordinance that called for a phased-in increase of the minimum wage for workers. The ordinance was the first of its kind for a major city to chart a course to a $15 minimum wage.

“Seattle workers are getting a well-deserved raise in 2017, when our minimum wage hit $15 for the first time,” said Mayor Murray. “Higher wages level the playing field for workers, helping to make our city more affordable and equitable. Nearly three years on, our local economy is thriving and more cities, as well as the state of Washington, have begun following Seattle’s lead to create a more equitable economy.”

The wage increase will impact an estimated 70,000 low-wage workers in Seattle. A study by the University of Washington found that one year after implementation, Seattle’s economy continues to expand. Data from 2016 also shows that Seattle’s unemployment rate continues to fall and currently sits near its lowest level in years.

“Earning $15 an hour is a big help to help make ends meet for me and my family,” said Sylvia Liang, who’s employed as a homecare worker in Seattle. “Being a homecare worker is important to me, I love helping people and it is very rewarding. Being able to earn $15 per hour for a job I love gives me more economic security and the opportunity to continue to live and work in a city that offers so much.”

“We are very proud to play a role in the movement for providing a better, more livable wage,” said Central Co-op representative, Susanna Schultz. “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.”

Changes to the minimum wage in 2017 include:

Large Employers (501 or more employees worldwide)

  • $15.00/hour: If the employer does NOT pay towards the individual employee’s medical benefits.
  • $13.50/hour: If the employer DOES pay towards the individual employee’s medical benefits.

Small Employers (500 or fewer employees worldwide)

  • $13.00/hour: If the employer does NOT pay at least $2.00/hour towards the individual employee’s medical benefits and/or the employee does NOT earn at least $2.00/hour in tips.
  • $11.00/hour: If the employer DOES pay at least $2.00/hour towards the individual employee’s medical benefits and/or the employee DOES earn at least $2.00/hour in tips

“We want to ensure that all workers in Seattle earn a living wage. My staff have been fielding calls from Seattle businesses making sure they are ready for 2017, as well as calls from employees asking about their rights,” said Dylan Orr, Director of the Seattle Office of Labor Standards. “I encourage both workers and employers to call us at 206-684-4500 or email us at laborstandards@seattle.gov for answers to questions about the minimum wage and other labor standards laws.”

Seattle’s minimum wage will continue to increase each year on January 1 until reaching $15 per hour for all workers in 2021. Once Seattle’s hourly minimum wage reaches $15, further percentage changes will be based on the rate of inflation as determined by the Consumer Price Index for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton area. For more details, see the Office of Labor Standards Minimum Wage website.

Workplace poster (English)

Workplace poster (Spanish)

Workplace poster (other languages)

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Mayor Murray statement on September job numbers

Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after new unemployment figures were released by the Washington State Employment Security Department. The Seattle-area unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent during the month of September, which is the lowest jobless rate since 2008.

“Seattle’s economy is thriving and strong job numbers indicate that we have returned to employment numbers not seen since the Great Recession. Today’s good news shows that we can raise the minimum wage for workers while growing the local job market at the same time.

“However, far too many people of color, youth, immigrants, and women are still struggling to make ends meet in our city. We are taking concrete steps to address this inequity—be it through raising the minimum wage, addressing the gender-pay gap, creating more affordable housing, and investing in early education and transportation—we are ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from Seattle’s vibrant and growing economy.”

 

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Murray praises new federal overtime rules

Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Obama Administration issued a new rule extending overtime protections:

“Thanks to the Obama Administration, more than 75,000 additional workers all across Washington will be eligible for overtime. These workers are entitled to fair compensation for their long hours, and this new rule is a big step in the right direction. In Seattle, we adopted a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and this move at the federal level is another important piece to address income inequality and support working families.”