New York -- The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously voted to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour, making it the highest municipal minimum wage in the country. The measure, which takes effect on April 1, 2015, will be phased in over the next three to seven years depending on the size of the business, with a slower process for small businesses.
The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller businesses will be given seven years. In a controversial provision opposed by labor representatives, employers will be allowed to pay a lower training wage to teenagers.
The issue has dominated politics in Seattle for months. Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“To those who have said that the sky will fall if we pass this legislation, let me assure you that the sun will rise tomorrow,” Councilman Nick Licata said, responding to opponents’ concerns, the Los Angeles Times reported. “It will rise seeing people having a better chance to feed their families.”
The International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based business group that represents franchise owners, said it plans to sue to stop the ordinance.
"The City Council's action today is unfair, discriminatory and a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small franchise business owners," the group said in a statement.
Although some local businesses supported the measure, a group of restaurant owners came out to oppose it, saying it would force them to rein in expansion, decrease hiring and possibly cut service hours.
San Francisco currently has the nation's highest hourly minimum wage at $10.74, but is considering raising it to $15.