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Seattle city council approves $15 minimum wage, largest in U.S.

Seattle’s city council on Monday unanimously approved a measure to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the highest minimum wage in U.S. history to date.

“We did this. Workers did this. Today’s first victory for 15 will inspire people all over the nation,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

The measure officially takes effect on April 1, 2015, but the increases will be implemented by businesses over several years. Big businesses — companies with more than 500 employees — will have to pay workers who don’t receive health benefits the $15 per hour by 2017. Ones that do provide health care will have an additional year. Small businesses — those with less 500 employees — would not have to pay the new wages until 2019. Small businesses whose employees supplement their wages with tips will have until 2021.

The International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents businesses ranging from fast-food restaurants to hotels, announced Tuesday that they will file a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the law because they say it discriminates against franchisees, which are locally owned businesses. The Seattle measure counts them as large businesses.

Economics correspondent Paul Solman traveled to Seattle in April to report on the minimum wage battle there. Watch the report below:

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