For freshman Mackenzie Brewer, the Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision on Monday to approve the highest minimum wage in the nation is a step in the wrong direction. An employee at Sirena Gelato in Fremont, Brewer said that she thinks the new $15 minimum wage will make it harder for young people to get jobs.
“I think the idea of a minimum wage job is that it’s one where you start out and get experience at,” Brewer said. “Then you move on to higher paying jobs… It’s not somewhere you stay your whole life.”
The $15 minimum wage, which is almost double the federal minimum, will be phased in over the next three to seven years. Under the new wage ordinance, minimum-wage workers will get raises starting April 1 of next year, a date set by the nine-member council that passed it. Continuous wage increases each year will incrementally bring Seattle businesses up to the new minimum.
Large businesses with more than 500 employees will be required to pay workers a $15 minimum wage by 2017 while those that provide health care don’t have to reach the mark until 2018. Seattle businesses with under 500 employees will be required to reach the new minimum wage by 2019, and even smaller employers are expected to be phased in through 2021.
Brewer said her boss told employees that, should the $15 minimum wage pass, one of the three Sirena Gelato locations in Washington would have to be closed down.
Brewer has been working at Sirena Gelato since the end of January this year. Though she won’t be working there over the summer, she hopes to continue working when she returns next fall.
Because the law is so new, Student Financial Services is still figuring out what the ordinance means for on-campus employment, according to Student Employment Coordinator Danielle Richmond.
“SPU is still in the process of analyzing the minimum wage law approved by the Seattle City Council yesterday,” Richmond wrote in an email. “…At this point we can’t say exactly what the impact will be on student employment.”
Richmond also wrote that some elements of the law aren’t entirely clear and may be clarified by future government regulations.
In a speech on Monday following the increased wage’s approval, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant compared the ordinance to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington that fought for a $2 per hour living wage.
“In today’s dollars, that is the same number we have just won… Fifteen in Seattle is just a beginning,” said Sawant, an outspoken supporter of the wage increase. “We have an entire world to win.”
Kat Wynn, staff reporter, contributed to this article.