May 14, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 20

News

$15 How?

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

Human services providers say Seattle must help them afford pay raises for their workers

Without additional support from city and county government, service cuts are inevitable, said Steve Daschle, human services advocate

Photo by: Jon Williams , Arts Editor

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A $15-an-hour minimum wage would cost Seattle human services organizations a total of about $11 million a year, and few of them have the resources to pay for it themselves, according to a study from the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC).

The coalition presented its findings to the Seattle City Council’s committee discussing a proposal to create a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray proposed the wage increase May 1, with a plan to phase in the wage to all businesses over the next decade.

The SHSC surveyed 29 organizations around Seattle and determined that 2,546 people would get a wage increase.

Three organizations surveyed already pay staff at least $15 an hour. Eleven organizations expected that the wage increase would cost each of them more than $100,000 annually.

A few organizations will bear a much larger cost. The Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC) estimated that it would cost $1.1 million to bring the agency’s 170 employees up to $15 an hour.

Moving lower-paid employees to $15 an hour would necessitate pay raises for those with higher qualifications, DESC said. Some of the agency’s higher-ranking employees currently earn close to $15 an hour, and DESC expects it would cost an additional $300,000 to $600,000 to increase their wages.

Some organizations also plan on increasing wages for staff members who work outside Seattle city limits.

Without additional support from city and county government, service cuts are inevitable, said Steve Daschle, co-chair of the SHSC. Fundraising alone can’t close the gap, he said.

“We’ll never get enough out of the philanthropic sector to make up the difference,” he said.

Despite the cost, SHSC recommends that the city include human services organizations in the proposed minimum- wage law. The report recommended a three-year phase in to allow organ–izations to adjust.

The report also recommended the city adjust eligibility requirements for city-funded services such as child care, so that those who receive pay raises don’t get cut off.

Murray is forwarding the $15-an-hour minimum-wage proposal to the city council, which has formed a committee to discuss it. If the city council’s final decision falls short of the proponents’ expectations, an outside organization, 15 Now, is prepared to put a voter initiative on the November ballot.

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