Raising the Minimum Wage in Seattle

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12-19 press conference-1Yesterday I participated in Mayor-elect Ed Murray’s press conference announcing his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. The Mayor-elect appointed me, along with Councilmember-elect Sawant and Councilmember Harrell to serve on the 23-member committee, charged “with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within Seattle.” The committee includes members from business, labor, and other community groups.

I thank the Mayor-elect for appointing me to this panel. It’s very timely. Even business-oriented publications like the Daily Journal of Commerce and Bloomberg increasingly report on the damage income inequality does not only to individuals and families, but to the economy.

Below are my comments from the press conference. You can view them here, or click on the viewer below to see the whole event.

We can do this!

We are a strong, caring and smart city. And people underestimate us.

We do what has to be done, when skeptics say it can’t be done.

We put on a World’s Fair, even got Elvis Presley here.

We’re taking down the viaduct, which I didn’t think was going to happen.

We got paid sick leave passed, the best in the nation.

So we can get to a $15 an hour minimum wage.

And it’s not just some Socialist dream.

It’s good government.

And, it’s good business.

Just yesterday, the Daily Journal of Commerce, which is not known for its liberal leanings, had an article with the headline “Economists say Income gap is hurting the US economy.”

It’s first line read, “Dozens of economists say the economy would be better able to sustain growth (and we are all in favor of sustainability), IF low and middle income households were sharing more of the nation’s wealth.”

If you are earning $20,000 a year, working full time, you have no wealth, you barely have enough to pay the rent and feed yourself. Those folks cannot sustain an economy in Seattle that will grow.

We are fortunate in Seattle, we are growing. We all see more buildings going up, downtown and elsewhere. We are also seeing rents going up, we are seeing people losing their homes because they cannot make their mortgage payments.

We are seeing too many employees pushed further away from Seattle, where their jobs are located.

If we want job growth in Seattle, we have to pay decent wages so that our employees can afford to live in in the city. Otherwise, we become a community divided between the well-off and those who cannot even achieve  middle class incomes.

So we recognize that there is a problem.

I want to thank the newest member of our city council Kshama Sawant for getting the ball rolling on solving this problem.

And I thank our Mayor-elect Ed Murray, for immediately rolling up his sleeves and creating this task force to bring people together to work out how this will be done.

I have faith him; as a Senator he did what many thought would be impossible, he got the entire state of Washington to legalize gay marriages. He did it through hard work. But here it’s just us in Seattle, so this task should be so much easier.

I also want to thank our union and business leaders for being here today. For being willing to see how we can move forward, and not digging trenches around fixed positions.

And now it’s time for Seattle to make history – again.

Thank you.