SEATTLE -- With a unanimous vote on Monday afternoon, the Seattle City Council became the first legislative body in the United States to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The decision will phase in the nation's highest hourly wage over the next several years.
The city's current minimum wage stands at $9.32 an hour -- the same as the rest of Washington State. Even that figure is above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
According to a report by The Associated Press, the wage increase will take effect April 1, 2015. The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years, the report stated.
Raising the minimum wage was a central issue to Mayor Ed Murray's campaign in the fall. The ordinance came from recommendations made by an advisory group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Murray.
"I want to thank all members of the Seattle City Council for making history today. Today symbolizes a beginning, not an end. It is about promises to keep, not promises kept," Murray said in a statement following the vote. "Today is not about any single politician or individual or group. It is about the people of Seattle coming together to make a profound difference to the lives of Seattle workers.
The mayor also disagreed with some who have called the wage hike "a radical experiment."
"The real radical experiment has been the economic policy of the last 34 years that has dismantled our middle class," Murray added. "Today, we have taken bold action to begin to reverse that radical trend. Today we have taken action that will serve as a model for the rest of the nation to follow."
A movement to increase minimum wages has swept across the country in the past year. President Barack Obama supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Minnesota earlier this year approved raising the state's guaranteed wage by more than $3, to $9.50, by 2016. In addition, California, Connecticut and Maryland have passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years.