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Seattle's $15 minimum wage: Questions and answers

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council has approved an ordinance that would raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the highest in the nation. Here are some questions and answers about the new hourly wage.

WHAT IS THE MINIMUM WAGE IN SEATTLE NOW?

It is $9.32 an hour, the Washington state minimum wage, which is itself the highest minimum wage of any state. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

WHEN WOULD SEATTLE'S WAGE GO UP?

The measure, which would take effect on April 1, 2015, would be phased in over several years. 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.

WHY SEATTLE?

The minimum wage issue has dominated local politics for months. New Mayor Ed Murray campaigned on raising the minimum wage during his campaign last fall, and local voters elected a socialist candidate to the City Council who has also pushed aggressively for the increase. The ordinance came from recommendations made by an advisory group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Murray.

WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING?

Some business owners complain the increase could lead them to cut back on hiring or scale back plans to expand operations. Some labor activists say the phased-in approach takes too long to get to $15 an hour. The goal of the advisory group recommendations was to avoid competing minimum wage ballot initiatives this fall from business and labor groups.

WHAT'S GOING ON ELSEWHERE?

President Barack Obama supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Minnesota earlier this year raised the state's guaranteed wage by more than $3, to $9.50, by 2016. California, Connecticut and Maryland also have passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years.

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