‘15 Now' files charter amendment in fight for higher wages

SEATTLE — A group advocating a $15 an hour minimum wage filed a city charter amendment Monday morning with the Seattle city clerk’s office.

According to the city of Seattle website, a citizen group can submit a charter amendment  if it has gathered a number of signatures matching at least 15 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral election.

Organizers with 15Now were not able to be interviewed Sunday night.

At a rally on March 15, Councilmember Kshama Sawant addressed a crowd with the group’s revised platform.

Sawant maintained big businesses should pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2015, in addition to benefits and tips. She also said there should be no separate wage for teenagers or workers in training.

For small businesses, human services and non-profits however, Sawant said they could start an $11 an hour Jan. 1, then make cost-of-living and gradual increases to catch up to big business rates within three years.

Conel Yanos, a Seattle voter, said he would rather have a chance to vote on a plan formed by city leaders.

If asked to vote on the amendment by 15Now, Yanos said he would vote no.

He said he works in airplane manufacturing, where “We started at $15, but then we had to get some type of education to build planes.”

Yanos also used to work in the fast-food industry and admitted it is difficult to make a living on those wages.

Sharron Sanford, another Seattle voter, remembers when she worked at a fast-food restaurant in Federal Way, earning minimum wage.

“You just work a whole week, and when you see your check, it’s not what you think, because you have bills, rent, car notes, insurance, cellphone bills,” Sanford said.

She said she would vote yes, but she worried whether workers’ hours would be cut back if the amendment passed.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray’s committee on income inequality is also working on a plan to bring to city council.

Businesses behind the ‘OneSeattle’ coalition would like to see that committee form its plan. But a spokesperson for OneSeattle said they could prepare for their own ballot initiative in the future.

While they do not have specific numbers in their plan, they advocate the same minimum wage for all businesses large and small. They also do not wish to see an immediate jump to $15 an hour.

It is unclear what would happen if opposing ballot measures and a city ordinance all pass.

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