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Tacoma Minimum Wage Task Force To Be Formed
In a move that brought quite a bit of public comment at last night's Tacoma City Council meeting, the council voted to form a citizen task force to explore alternatives to the 15 Now initiative that would raise the minimum wage for businesses operating in Tacoma and making more than $300,000 a year to $15 an hour across the board.
Business owners and others are worried about the impact of that proposal on the health of Tacoma's businesses. The Chamber of Commerce wrote to the council requesting that a group of stakeholders be convened to find a "right-sized local solution for Tacoma to offer voters as an alternative."
Tacoma business leaders are calling on Tacoma’s Mayor Marilyn Strickland to convene a citizen process to develop a compromise on the minimum wage issue. Such a process will result in an increase that respects the relative strength of the Tacoma economy.
The Chamber calls the 15 Now proposal too extreme, but suggests there may be room for compromise on a phased-in approach to a minimum wage that is a better fit for Tacoma's, which the letter points out does not have as robust an economy as Seattle, or as high of a cost of living. The letter suggests the group acknowledges the need for an increase, making the question not whether the minimum goes up, but by how much, and how the increase will be implemented.
Last night the council responded, adopting the resolution for the creation of the Tacoma Minimum Wage Task Force. The 13 members on the task force will be chosen by the council - one by each council member, and the remainder by the mayor. The task at hand for the group will be to develop a recommendation for the council on what they deem to be a fair compromise on the minimum wage question - both the amount of the increase and how to implement it. They have until June 30 to do that.
Public comment on the creation of the task force came largely from 15 Now activists, who asked the council not to seek an alternative for their initiative, which several described as already being a compromise. One commenter asked the council not to interfere with the proposal he described as "what the public wants." Another dismissed business concerns, telling the council to focus on wage earners, not employers.
We shouldn’t be concerned about failing businesses. We should be concerned about the interests of the citizens of Tacoma, and we all know that the interest of the citizens of Tacoma is to have a living wage… So let’s really consider the interests of the citizens of Tacoma, rather than the interests of some small group of people who are operating failing businesses in Tacoma.”
We also heard from Tom Pierson of the Chamber, thanking the council, and from a couple of other voices in favor of compromise and further exploration, particularly of appropriate implementation. One commenter asked the council to be sure that small businesses and nonprofits in particular be represented, to ensure that their voices were heard. He mentioned the need to plan a year ahead, saying that it is particularly challenging for a nonprofit funded by grants to make abrupt changes.
You can read the 15 Now argument for their initiative on their website, and the Chamber's argument and letter to the council on their blog. It's clearly been a divisive issue so far, but the council seemed for the most part optimistic that a compromise was possible. Where do you see that right-sized solution for Tacoma?
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