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U.S. Secretary Of Labor Praises Seattle For Leading The Way On A Higher Minimum Wage

Ashley Gross
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, with City Council member Kshama Sawant (left),

U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is praising Seattle for leading the way by phasing in a $15/hour minimum wage. He appeared at a press conference at a restaurant in the Columbia City neighborhood with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and other leaders who worked to hike the city's wage floor. 

Perez says Republicans have blocked the president’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.

But Perez says local and state governments are not waiting around. He says Seattle has set an example for the rest of the country.

"What you have done has reverberated across this country and you have every reason to be proud of this," he said. 

San Francisco voters last fall also approved a minimum wage that reaches $15 an hour in 2018. Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota have hiked their wages.

Seattle’s minimum wage is going up in increments and differs depending on the size of the business. Workers at large companies and franchises will now get paid at least $11 an hour, with another raise set for next January. 

Perez said people often tell him that raising the minimum wage will be disastrous for businesses, but he has a ready response.

“If that proposition is correct, then every time I fly to Seattle, I ought to pack a bag lunch because I wouldn’t be able to find a restaurant to eat at because Washington state has had the highest minimum wage in the country for the last 15 years and you should be proud of that," Perez said. 

Washington’s minimum wage is $9.47 an hour and is adjusted every year for inflation. But the Republican-controlled Senate is blocking an effort to phase in a $12-an-hour minimum wage for the state.  

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.