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 Thursday, 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 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 works 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 email@example.com for answers to questions about the minimum wage and other labor standards laws.”
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.