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Franchise Organization Says Seattle's $15 Wage Rollout Is Unfair

Ted S. Warren
David Jones looks out the window of one of the two Subway sandwich franchises he owns in Seattle. Jones, who has 18 employees at his two stores, says he will need to raise prices 4 percent to cover the first pay increase.

People who own franchises in Seattle are suing the city, claiming it’s unfair they have to pay workers $15 per hour four years before other businesses have to do the same.  Oral arguments happen Tuesday in U.S. District Court.  

Under Seattle’s $15 wage law, franchise owners are lumped in with large businesses that have more than 500 employees. This is the case even if the franchise only has a few workers. If your business falls into this category, you have three years instead of seven to reach $15 for your base pay.


Franchise owners say this is wrong, but Seattle Mayor Ed Murray argues these businesses are connected to large corporations that help them and can afford to start paying the higher wage sooner.


“Their advertising, their menus, their training, the design of their stores are decided at a multinational level,” says Murray.


The International Franchise Association says it isn’t opposed to people being paid more, but is against being put on a faster track to do so. Matthew Haller, the association’s Senior Vice President, says the time frame is discriminatory.  


“We think it violates several components of the Constitution, which is why we filed this lawsuit in Federal District Court.”


The higher wage gets phased in next month. On April 1, 2015, paychecks for minimum wage workers in Seattle will bump up to at least ten dollars per hour in cash compensation. On that day Mayor Ed Murray says he plans to celebrate by going out to eat at a Seattle restaurant.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.