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Fast-food workers in Seattle could soon make $31,000 a year

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Burger flippers in Seattle could soon take home more than $31,000 a year.

Ed Murray, a candidate for mayor of the Pacific northwest's largest city, has endorsed a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The city's current mayor Mike McGinn said he may go even higher.

If Seattle goes that route, its minimum wage would be more than double the $7.25 required under federal law and 50% more than the $10 that California will launch in 2016 under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September.

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Supporters of a $15 minimum point to evidence of slowing middle-class job creation and rising income inequality.

"This is a discussion that’s going to spread across the nation,” Murray told Bloomberg News. His proposal would extend the wage first to city workers, then to employees of national fast-food chains and retailers.

The average family earns less today than in 1989 after adjusting for inflation, Bloomberg reported, citing census data.

Murray first said in July he’d back $15. McGinn, 53, also a Democrat, later told reporters he’d support even more if the City Council passed it.

"They may go to $13, or $14 -- they may go to $16," he said in an Oct. 9 televised debate. "I’ll be there."

Voters in SeaTac, a suburb of 27,000 people where the major employer is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum to $15 for 6,300 people who work at the airport, hotels and rental-car agencies.

Passage of the SeaTac measure could generate momentum for similar pay at its larger neighbor, and money has poured in from both sides.

Roger McCracken, managing partner of MasterPark, which operates parking lots near the airport, said the company may have to automate some jobs if the measure passes.

"We’re on a razor-thin margin as it is," he said.

Alaska Air, based in SeaTac, has contributed $156,000 to defeat the proposal, saying in a statement it would "hinder our ability to remain competitive." Higher wages will cost jobs, drive businesses away and raise prices, according to opponents.

"It’s not reasonable to assume that employers are going to absorb all of this cost increase," said Erin Shannon, director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy Center, a Seattle research group that supports "free-market" solutions. “Ultimately, those costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

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