• Tacoma tackles the $15/hour minimum wage issue

    By: Kevin McCarty

    Updated:

    TACOMA, Wash. - The battle over a $15 an hour minimum wage will probably be decided by voters.

    Members of 15 Now Tacoma said they have many more signatures than needed to get a $15 minimum wage initiative on the city's November ballot.

    The group decided to bypass a City Council plan to talk about raising the wage incrementally and take it directly to the ballot box.

    “We figured we could actually get something passed through the voters,” said 15 Now member Sarah Morken. “We didn’t think the City Council was being responsive.”

    The City Council has assembled a group to study whether the city should back a ballot initiative that implements a $15 an hour wage right away, or phases one in over time.

    Cloverleaf Tavern owner Debbie Brese says an instant $15 an hour minimum wage could mean big changes for her.

    “We would have to, of course, raise prices. My payroll would go up 27 percent immediately,” said Brese.

    Brese says it's not just a matter of paying her employees more. The suppliers she counts on for food and drinks would also be forced to pay their employees more, so they'd have to charge her more.

    She said she can't cut staff to save money because she operates with just the number of people needed so they can work as many hours as they want.  But she'd have to save money somewhere.

    “So I’d have to cut something else,” said Brese. “I give my employees a lot of benefits and I would have to give those away.”

    Representatives of 15 Now Tacoma needed about 3,100 signatures to qualify for the ballot. They said they gathered more than 4,000. Those signatures still need to be verified by the Tacoma City Clerk’s office.

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