SEATTLE - Even as Congress strives to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hours to $10.10, Seattle City Council Monday unanimously passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the highest in the nation.
Across the states, minimum wages in the US varies from $6 per hour, to $10.74 at San Francisco, the highest hourly wage for a large US city, while a few states have no fixed minimum wages.
In 38 states, the minimum wage is higher than the average $7.25 per hour wage in the country.
The states of California, Connecticut and Maryland have recently passed laws increasing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years.
In Seattle, wages would begin to rise next year, ultimately reaching $15 over three to seven years, depending on the business.
Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant, who after the council meeting called on the people of America to elect more independent and socialist candidates, said the push for a higher minimum wage is spreading across the nation.
"Seattle may be a hippie city. We may wear socks with our sandals," but it's also a city where different progressive groups can work together to bring about change, Sawant said.
The new wage proposal will first apply to the large businesses in 2017 and then to all businesses by 2021. It will commence with minimum wage of $10 from April 1, 2015, and later to $11 for others.
More than 100,000 workers are expected to benefit from the wage hike move, according to advocacy group '15 for Seattle'.
Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama called for a $10.10 federally-mandated minimum wage, which is still to find full support of the Congress.
The minimum wage hike was formally proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who had contested the election to the city's top office on the issue.
The ordinance is based on the recommendations of an advisory group of labor, business and nonprofit representatives convened by Murray. It presented its plan last month. Last week the council delayed implementation by the few months and approved a sub-minimum 90-day on the job training wage for teenagers, a provision opposed by labor representatives..
Under the plan, firms with more than 500 employees nationally will be given at least three years to phase in the increase, while those who provide health insurance subsidies would get four years. Only smaller businesses would be given seven years to implement the new wages.
Critics say the phased plan takes too long to offer better wages and amendment that would let businesses pay teenagers a "subminimum training wage" for their first 90 days on the job.
Among the critics are a group of restaurant owners who have alleged that the new wage structure would force them to cut back on new recruits and service hours.
A lobbying group has threatened to sue alleging the varied phase-in time was unfair.
"The suit will seek to overturn the unfair and discriminatory minimum wage plan that was approved by the City Council," the International Franchise Association (IFA) said in a statement.
Last year, the tiny town of SeaTac, which holds Seattle's airport, passed a $15 minimum wage which benefited around 6,300 workers.
Council Member Nick Licata feels other states and cities must follow suit. "I hope that they do. But it's not an easy road to go down," Licata said.