Supporters of a $15 minimum wage in Tacoma say the issue will continue to the fall ballot as planned, but add they are willing to consider removing it if approached in “the right way.”
“That’s all people want to know,” said Mike Ladd, a janitor and member of 15 Now Tacoma. “We dragged everyone in the political establishment kicking and screaming into this struggle. Now they want to know when we’re going to wave the white flag.”
If voters pass the measure, called Proposition 1, the minimum wage in the city would jump from the state’s current $9.47 per hour minimum to $15 per hour.
Members of the Downtown Merchants Group said in April that such a swift increase would kill small businesses in Tacoma.
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Spooked by the group’s success and armed with opinion poll results that showed Tacomans support a minimum wage increase to $12, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce asked Mayor Marilyn Strickland to convene a minimum wage task force.
Nine of the 15 members recommended raising the minimum wage from $9.47 per hour to $15 per hour by 2020 for businesses and nonprofits with 150 or more workers, and 2024 for smaller enterprises.
Six members of the task force suggested a $12 per hour increase by 2019.
“We don’t think it’s fast enough, and we don’t think it’s high enough, but it’s something,” 15 Now member Alan Stancliff said of the task force’s majority recommendation.
The City Council will talk about the recommendations Tuesday and possibly decide what to send to the ballot at its July 14 meeting.
Stancliff said those interested in trying to persuade 15 Now to withdraw the measure are welcome to make their case at the group’s weekly meetings.
“They have to do it in the right way. They have to talk to our membership,” Stancliff said, “not someone they think whose arm they can twist.”
City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli has said the initiative’s creator could ask the city to withdraw the issue from the ballot.
Stancliff and other 15 Now members said the City Council started paying attention only when it looked as if 15 Now would get enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot. He said people have told him there’s no way Tacomans will pass the issue.
“Why is everybody so worried if it can’t win?” Stancliff asked. “I think it can win, and I think it likely will. And so do they. That’s why they are going through all of these gyrations.”