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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 51
Ed Murray outlines plan for livable wage
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Ed Murray outlines plan for livable wage

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ed Murray introduced his 'Income Inequality Advisory Committee' and announced plans to raise Seattle's minimum wage at a press conference on December 19.

Income inequality 'strikes at the very core of who we are as a democratic society,' Murray said. 'Our city is becoming an unaffordable city for too many middle-class families, artists, students, young people, service-industry workers, immigrants new to the country.'

Murray endorsed the goal of a $15 per hour minimum wage during his mayoral campaign, and said that raising wages to that level would be the first step in overcoming inequality.

'Seattle really is on the cusp of falling beyond the financial reach of too many of those who give our city its diverse character - of the very people who make this city run,' he added.

Murray's advisory committee, which is made up of 23 labor, business, and political leaders, 'is charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the city of Seattle,' its mission statement says.

It will be chaired by David Rolf, president of SEIU 775NW, a union which represents many low-wage workers, and H.S. Wright III, founder and CEO of the Seattle Hospitality Group. SEIU 775NW was one of the driving forces behind SeaTac's Prop 1, which established a $15 per hour wage for airport and hospitality workers.

Also on the committee are City Council members Nick Licata and Bruce Harrell, and Council member elect Kshama Sawant, who made a $15 per hour minimum wage the centerpiece of her campaign.

The committee is scheduled to report out a plan to meet the $15 per hour goal by May 2014. Murray said he wants to present a formal proposal to the City Council by the end of July.

Between now and May, the advisory committee 'will solicit public input, meet with stakeholder groups, and collect and research pertinent data to advise the Mayor and City Council on how best to increase minimum compensation levels for low-wage workers in Seattle.'

'These individuals are not here as the latest installment of the Seattle process,' Murray said. 'They are here to participate in a structured effort, within a defined timeframe, with clear goals and clear deadlines, while driving toward a clear end-product - which is a proposal I can submit to City Council this summer.'

Sawant held her own press conference on December 17, two days before Murray's, at which she said she would release the details of her plan for a livable wage in January, but insisted that the $15 per hour wage be implemented in 2014.

She said she held out hope that Murray and the City Council would act quickly, but added that if they did not do so, she would try to put an initiative on the ballot in November 2014.

Joining Sawant at her press conference was SEIU 775NW vice-president Sterling Harders. SEIU spokesperson Jackson Holtz told SGN that his local would support 'the right initiative' if the City Council failed to act on Murray's promises, but stopped short of endorsing Sawant's plans.

'We're confident that Mayor-elect Murray will lead a collaborative legislative process that will produce a progressive and bold proposal that the council will adopt,' Jackson wrote in an email. 'However, we also believe that the issue may go to the ballot, and if it does, we'll support the right ballot initiative.'

Murray, for his part, reiterated the 'bring people together' approach he emphasized in his campaign.

'We can boost the earnings of low-wage workers in a meaningful way and increase the economic activity of the region that comes with greater spending power - and we can do it without harming our employers or losing jobs,' he said.

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