The fight for a higher minimum wage: SF vs. Seattle

On May Day, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

As a point of comparison, this proposal would put Seattle minimum-wage earners in the position of only having to devote 46 percent of their total pre-tax income toward rent (based on median monthly rental prices) instead of 63 percent.

Here in San Francisco, the Coalition for a Fair Economy is also seeking to raise the municipal minimum wage, by filing for a measure for the November ballot. The proposal would raise the minimum wage from the current $10.74 per hour to $15 an hour, increasing minimum wage earners’ annual salaries from $22,339 per year to $31,200.

“With the growing national movement to lift up wages in our poorest communities, now is the time to be fighting for a $15 minimum wage in San Francisco,” said Political Action Chair Alysabeth Alexander of SEIU 1021, the service workers’ union that is backing the measure. “I am especially fueled by stories of my co-workers facing homelessness despite working full-time jobs as service providers housing the homeless.”

Median rent in Seattle is $1,190. Median rent in San Francisco is $3,200.

Returning again to these median rental price listings, this $15 an hour proposal on the San Francisco ballot would make it so that San Francisco minimum wage earners would only have to work 1.23 minimum-wage jobs to in order to devote 100 percent of their pre-tax income toward rent, versus 1.7 minimum wage jobs under the current rate.

Er, wait. In order to pay for frills (like food), they would probably have to pick up a second job after all. That does sound a bit exhausting, doesn’t it?

Now the Seattle mayor’s propsal is pretty damn complicated, and socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, whose successful campaign was based on the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15, is working with a group to gather signatures for an initiative to pass an immediate increase to $15 for the November ballot. But it’s worth noting that when Murray floated his $15 an hour proposal, he identified the growing gap between the rich and poor as a major societal problem, saying this increase would “improve the lives of workers who can barely afford to live” in Seattle.

While San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has expressed support for a minimum wage increase, he’s not backing the idea of a $15 per hour minimum wage per se.

“I said I was open to up to $15 an hour,” Lee said in a recent interview on KQED’s Forum to clarify his stance, “and I didn’t state a number at the beginning.”

Instead, Lee has convened a task force with groups such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, small business, nonprofits, and others to discuss a minimum wage increase. Calls to the SFCOC, to find out what other (presumably lower) hourly wage amounts are being discussed, haven’t yet been returned. But stay tuned as we continue to follow the issue.

When Krasny asked Lee about whether he would invite SEIU 1021 to the table, Lee responded, “They’re invited! They’re the ones who actually put a number out and then told everybody to catch up with it. I don’t think that’s the way to get it done.”