The contentious issue that is the minimum wage fight was never going to be a slam dunk. Now as the nation's biggest minimum wage hike ramps up in Seattle beginning next month, a top franchise lobby has been fighting back with a lawsuit that seeks to grant small businesses more time to comply with the law.
Seattle's City Council in June voted to raise the minimum wage in increments—to $11 by April 1 and to $15 an hour by 2017—for larger businesses with at least 500 staffers.
But the International Franchise Association argues Seattle's ordinance discriminates against its members by lumping smaller franchisees with big businesses. The franchise group wants its members to be recognized as smaller businesses in order to delay the rise to $11 until 2017 and the increase to $15 until 2021.
"Franchisees are often small and local, and face the same challenges that other small businesses face," said Matthew Haller, a spokesman for the franchise group. "The franchise system is still a network of small businesses that will face irreparable harm due to these extra costs."
Seattle's current minimum wage is $9.47 an hour. Now it's up to the local courts to decide. The national franchise group and five franchisees in the city filed the suit against the city last year. Oral arguments took place last week on a preliminary injunction motion, and a decision may come as early as Tuesday, potentially buying franchisees more time to implement the increase.
Businesses owners and other states, meanwhile, will be watching as the wage debate intensifies.