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Seattle Residents Testify For, Against $15 Minimum Wage At Packed Hearing

KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Hundreds of people descended on Seattle's Town Hall last night for the first in a series of public hearings on the minimum wage.

[asset-images[{"caption": "David Perez, a housekeeper at Northwest Hospital, testified in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15. His wife currently earns the minimum wage, and he said it's tough to raise a family on their salaries.", "fid": "14622", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201403/IMG_6284.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang"}]]

The hearings were convened by the Seattle City Council, which will likely consider a minimum wage proposal this spring.

The testimony, which lasted well into the evening, was heavily in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Wearing bright red shirts, members of the group 15 Now packed the audience. They argued for an immediate minimum wage increase, with no exceptions.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Members of the Seattle City Council listen to testimony on the topic of raising the minimum wage on Wednesday, March 5. The public hearing at Town Hall lasted four hours.", "fid": "14619", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201403/IMG_6254.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang"}]]"A $15 an hour minimum wage is pragmatic. It would lift 100,000 people out of poverty in Seattle," said Calvin Priest, a member of 15 Now. "That's 100,000 workers and their families — workers who are working hard every day to make things work in this city."

But some small business owners and their employees said such an increase would lead to lay-offs, benefit cuts and higher prices.  

[asset-images[{"caption": "J.W. Boswell, a sommelier in a Seattle restaurant, testifies against raising the minimum wage to $15. He says it would result in the loss of his job.", "fid": "14623", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201403/IMG_6266.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang"}]]"What happens if we pass a SeaTac style, 60 percent, automatic increase in the minimum wage? Simple. I lose my job," said J.W. Boswell, a sommelier at a Seattle restaurant. "Our restaurant has a 3 percent profit margin. How are we supposed to survive a 60 percent increase in labor?"

Mayor Ed Murray has convened an Income Inequality Advisory Committee to draft a proposal to raise the minimum wage. The mayor is expected to give his proposal to the City Council at the end of April.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Jasmine Donovan of Dick's Drive-In testified that raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase the company's labor costs by $1.5 million. She said the company would have to look at raising prices and cutting benefits.", "fid": "14625", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201403/IMG_6295.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang"}]]

Year started with KUOW: 2005