After the recession, Seattle’s economy seemed to recover, but not for the vast number of low-wage workers in our city who are disproportionately women, people of color, immigrants and LGBTQ people.

According to the Alliance for Just Society, a living wage for a full-time employee in our region is $17.55 an hour. However, rising costs and stagnant wages are making Seattle unaffordable for the nearly one out of every four Seattle employees (over 100,000 people) who earn below $15 an hour.  

Puget Sound Sage’s goal was to build the case for increasing the minimum wage in Seattle to $15 per hour. Sage worked closely with dozens of non-profit organizations, community groups, labor unions and small businesses to launch the $15 for Seattle coalition.  We chaired the policy arm of this coalition, convening many of our region’s best minds on how to raise the wage.

Sage’s research team crafted strategic, timely reports and briefs including the Economic and Equity Impacts of a $15 Minimum Wage in Seattle and Who are Seattle’s Tipped Workers? The reports shaped the debate in local, national and international media outlets, including The Guardian, Reuters, MSNBC, and Next City.

In addition, our policy director, Nicole Keenan served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which negotiated and crafted the details of the minimum wage ordinance passed in the City of Seattle. In order to ensure that we represented our community partners and allies interests at the negotiating table, we conducted outreach, education sessions, and community organizing with people-of-color led organizations, human services organizations, and non-profits.

In June 2014, the City of Seattle approved a landmark minimal wage ordinance following advocacy by Puget Sound Sage and many other local organizations and individuals.

Seattle's Minimum Wage Ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2015.

The new minimum wage legislation provides for an increase in the minimum wage in the City of Seattle to $15 an hour, phased in over time:

Small employers (businesses with fewer than 500 employees) will reach a $15 an hour minimum wage in seven years. Also established is a temporary guaranteed minimum compensation responsibility of $15 an hour to be met within the first five years, which can be achived by combining employer-paid health care contributions, consumer-paid tips, and employer-paid wages.

Large employers (businesses with 500 or more employees, either in Seattle or nationally) will reach $15 per hour in three years. The wages of employees who receive health care benefits will reach $15 per hour in four years.