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Combat and Collaboration in Seattle’s Historic Minimum Wage Debate

Erik H. Houser, Craig Thomas & Stephen Page (University of Washington)

July 2018



This teaching case provides a gripping and vivid example of an innovative policy making process in a major city. Students are thrust into the action as the Mayor of Seattle, forced to find common ground between the age-old foes of labor and business after creating a committee of stakeholders to design a new minimum wage law. If the committee is successful, Seattle will become the first major city in the country to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Meetings were confidential at the time, but contemporary interviews with nearly a dozen participants reveal the narrative of what happened behind closed doors. The case culminates with the committee at a breaking point, presenting a key decision point about how to salvage the process or whether to abandon it altogether. Besides the Mayor, extensive background is included for students to put themselves in the shoes of the committee's labor leaders, business CEO's, and nonprofit leaders.

400 Eggers Hall