by Jack Mayne
With the $15 minimum wage already law in SeaTac and recently in Seattle, the first of what promises to be many lawsuits was filed in Seattle federal court on Thursday (June 12).
There are strong suggestions that a version of the same localized minimum wage law is under consideration by some members of the Burien City Council, although no specific proposals have been forthcoming.
The International Franchise Association (IFA) filed the suit that seeks to block law passed last week and signed by Mayor Ed Murray.
The IFA suit seeks to block the Seattle law, alleging “the new law illegally discriminates against franchisees and improperly treats them not as the small, locally-owned businesses they are, but as large, national companies,” according to a news release from the Washington, D.C. based association.
The Seattle ordinance requires large businesses, which are defined as those with “more than 500 employees,” to raise the minimum wage they pay their employees to $15-an-hour over three years beginning on April 1, 2015.
The IFA notes that smaller businesses have an extra four years, or a total of seven years, to phase in the wage increase.
But the IFA suit says this “unfairly requires Seattle’s 600 franchisees, who own 1,700 franchise locations and employ 19,000 workers, to meet the three year deadline for large businesses simply because they operate as part of a franchise network.”
That means Seattle has defied “years of legal precedent clearly defining a franchisee as an independent local business owner who operates separately from the corporation that provides brand and marketing materials,” thus unfairly treating franchisee workers.
“We are not seeking special treatment for franchisees, we are just seeking equal treatment. The city’s minimum wage statute arbitrarily and illegally discriminates against franchisees and significantly increases their labor costs in ways that will harm their businesses, employees, consumers and Seattle’s economy,” said Steve Caldeira, IFA president & CEO.”