$15 Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Good for Our Economy
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted in favor of gradually increasing the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years. The boost will benefit Seattle workers, their families, and our regional economy.
After four decades of stagnant wages, the vote is a bold step in the right direction. Due to the high cost of living, an individual or family living in Seattle and working full-time earning the current minimum wage of $9.32 an hour is unable to meet basic needs – such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities (see graph). People earning the minimum wage must forgo basic needs, or rely on government assistance just to make ends meet.
With a gradual increase to $15, workers will find it easier to meet basic needs over time. Individuals will benefit the most, eventually being able to move beyond the basics and save a little extra for a car, house, or education – purchases that build toward an economically secure future and strengthen the economy. Importantly, a minimum wage of $15 is still not a living wage for a parent raising children, but families will be able to meet a greater share of basic needs than before.
After decades of stagnant wages and a declining middle class, $15 an hour will benefit all of us. However, raising the minimum wage is one step within a broader strategy to invest in workers, rebuild the middle class, and strengthen the economy. Other strategies – including affordable child care and housing, paid sick and family leave, and transportation – are gaining traction nationally and locally, which would give workers and their families’ greater opportunity to prosper, the benefits of which would ripple throughout communities, businesses, and the economy.