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$15 minimum wage starts in Seattle

SEATTLE -- A minimum wage of $15 an hour has started in Seattle for the city's largest employers.

A Ivar's, the wage was already been in effect for nearly two years. It's been the standard for the guy making salads to the bartender to the people bussing tables.

When the city started talking about raising the wage, the longtime seafood restaurant took notice, said Bob Donegan, Ivar's president.

"We've been there since April 1, 2015, the day the law into effect, and it has had very little impact on us."

On Jan. 1, Ivar's got company. On that day, the $15 wage became mandatory for every business with more than 501 employees. From now until 2021 the wage increase will be phased in.

"Seattle is well ahead of most cities in the nation, but what we started here by launching the $15 dollars now grassroots campaign is now nationwide," said Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant.

Dylan Orr, who directs the city's Office of Labor and Standards, said his office has fielded plenty of questions in the last couple of days from employers and employees.

"It's incredibly important that workers earn a living wage and that we reduce income disparities that exist," Orr said.

Orr's office investigates wages issues. If employers are found in violation, they could be forced to pay back pay.

Today there are four different minimum wages in Seattle, ranging from $11 to $15, depending on the company's size. Ivar's Donegan says he doubts that in this economy any employer will be hurt paying $15 an hour.

"It was unfortunate the city felt it had to impose a law to bring everybody else up to it."

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