(Editor's note: This piece written by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was posted by 11Alive news partner USA TODAY. The USA TODAY Editorial Board has written a counter op-ed, which you can read here.)
Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has been in the news lately, with some questioning its benefits. As the mayor who signed the ordinance in 2014, I know how important it has been for workers in this city. By raising the minimum wage, we raised incomes for our lowest paid workers and our economy continues to accelerate.
Three years ago, Seattle became the first major city to pass a $15 minimum wage. While not a silver bullet to address inequality, the minimum wage is a critical tool benefiting low-wage workers and our economy. Putting more money in workers’ pockets leads to more spending at local businesses, growing our economy.
We are also taking other steps, such as building more affordable housing, expanding transit and investing in preschool, to address inequities.
We passed the minimum wage by bringing disparate interests together, and this year it hit $15 for some large employers.
And today, Seattle’s economy is thriving and our employers are competing for workers. Hotels, retailers, and restaurants are scrambling to find employees. Jobs commonly thought of as “low-wage,” such as dishwashing or food delivery, start at $15 or $20 per hour.
Unemployment is at a historic low of 2.6%. Fortune 500 companies are relocating to Seattle. Tens of thousands of people are moving here. And incomes are rising.
A recent report from the University of California confirmed that the minimum wage “raised wages for low-paid workers without causing disemployment.”
A University of Washington report finds that some employers might be limiting hours in response to the law. If this were widely true, it would be cause for concern. Unfortunately, the report excludes 38% of workers who work at multisite businesses (such as Starbucks or Target). This and other limitations are openly acknowledged by the study team members, and they do not recommend changing the law.
We believe research should continue, but we know low-wage workers are making more money and our economy is growing, all while we’re closing the inequality gap.
This opinion piece was originally published by our affiliate: USA TODAY.
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