Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Leaps Another Hurdle

Franchise owners lose in bid to delay pay increase.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law, brought by franchise owners who argue the law discriminates against them by treating them as large businesses, reports the Associated Press.

Seattle became one of the first cities in the country to adopt the $15 minimum wage last June. Under the law, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees have seven years to phase in the higher wage. Large employers only get three to four years to adjust, depending on whether they offer employees health insurance. Despite having fewer than 500 employees, franchises, including restaurants and hotels, were given the shorter timeline because of their connection to multistate corporations.

In response, the International Franchise Association and five franchises sued the city of Seattle, saying they should be given more time to phase in higher wages. The court refused to hear their challenge, leaving intact the current timeline. In September the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it did not believe the lawsuit would succeed because the association’s arguments that members would be harmed were not persuasive.

The president of the association, Robert Cresanti, said in a statement, “Seattle’s ordinance is blatantly discriminatory and affirmatively harms … hardworking franchise small-business owners every day since it has gone into effect. … We are simply attempting to level the playing field for the 600 local franchise business owners employing 19,000 people in Seattle.”

The decision comes just a month after the governors of both California and New York signed legislation to raise their statewide minimums to $15 per hour as well. Both states are phasing in the higher wage gradually, as Seattle is. In California, businesses with 26 or more employees will need to increase their minimum wage to $10.50 by January 1, 2017, with annual increases bringing the minimum up to $15 by the end of 2022.

New York City’s minimum wage will increase before the rest of the state, with businesses employing at least 11 people required to increase wages to $11 an hour by the end of 2016, then another $2 for the next two years. Small businesses get slightly longer to comply: They need to raise their minimum wage to $10.50 by the end of 2016, then by $1.50 each year for the next three.

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Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

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Tags: income inequalityseattleminimum wage

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