A week ago, Seattle made history when it bumped its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and yesterday Mayor Ed Murray defended the city’s move, trumpeting it as a “model for the nation.”
Murray argued that the minimum wage hike is key to Washington state’s recovery.
“If we want to regain our economic strength and be competitive in the nation,” the mayor told ABC News’ Neal Karlinsky, “the minimum wage is going to have to raise.”
Murray described the increase as an attempt to bolster the middle class and once again kick start “a vibrant economy.”
A longstanding proponent of the living wage, Murray rode public support for the measure into office during the 2013 mayoral election. Now, the newly elected mayor views Seattle as a national example, “a laboratory for democracy.”
Many question Murray’s experiment. In a roundtable discussion led by George Stephanopoulos, Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, argued that raising the minimum wage, “prices a lot of people out of the labor market, particularly the young and least experienced.”
James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, warns of a more elemental danger. When labor cost increase, Sherk said, businesses likely will raise prices, subsequently diminishing the real wages of consumers. Some experience a temporary boost, he said, but “the effective purchasing power of everyone will go down. And the purchasing power of those who lose their jobs will go down even more.”
But Murray remains optimistic. “I actually feel pretty excited about the work we did.” He said Seattle “reached a good balance.”