Makini Howell, the owner of nine-year-old Plum Restaurants, a vegan restaurant chain in Seattle, plans to adjust the wages for her 52-person team in set increments between now and next spring when the law change goes into effect. The uptick will reduce employee turnover and make for a happier and more loyal group of workers, Makini says. (By law, all workers--including waiters and waitresses, who earn tips and as a result traditionally receive less hourly--are slated to get the pay bump.)
Businesses with fewer than 500 employees have seven years to fully comply with the law.
In early June, Seattle's city council unanimously approved the wage hike, which would make the city's minimum the highest in the nation. Washington state's current minimum of $9.32 is already the highest in the U.S.
Plenty of business owners object to raising the minimum wage for workers in Seattle. In early June, for example, the International Franchise Association sued the city for a permanent injunction against the increase. Alaska airlines and other businesses operating near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which approved a raise to $15 an hour for workers this winter, are also suing to stop the increase there.
For her part, Howell is optimistic that the wage hike will improve the economic situation for all--even business owners like her. "The $15 minimum is a good idea becuase it means more money in consumers' pockets and it will put more money into the economy for people to spend with us," Howell says.
Seattle, home to corporate giants such as Microsoft and Starbucks, is certainly in the vanguard. And while there's been some movement in congress to raise wages on a national level, those legislative efforts so far have been quashed. Bills to raise the federal minimum wage, currently at $7.25 an hour, for other workers have gotten signficant pushback from lawmakers, who recently killed legislation in the Senate.
President Obama, through an executive order, raised the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 in February.
"People and business owners have to rethink how much profit they need for themselves, and they need to think of the longevity of their small businesses, as well as the health and well-being of the community," Makini says. "People need better pay."
Howell addressed the White House Summit on Working Families last week about the economic need for Seattle's $15 minimum wage.