Fast food workers win in court; $15 law remains in full effect

Federal Judge rules against franchise lobby group, declines to issue injunction against Seattle $15 minimum wage law

Federal Judge Richard A. Jones has declined to issue an injunction against Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law, ruling against the claim by industry lawyers that Seattle’s popular law is unfair to McDonald’s, Subway, and other giant franchise systems.

“I haven’t read a single page of a law book,” said Malcolm Cooper-Suggs, a leader with Working Washington who works at the downtown Seattle McDonald’s, “but I know what’s right and what’s wrong. This is the right ruling.”

Judge Jones rejected an argument from the International Franchise Association and allies that Seattle’s landmark minimum wage law somehow “discriminated” against giant fast food chains and other franchises.

“It’s obvious to anyone who’s ever worked at a franchise outlet — or even just eaten at one — that these giant multibillion-dollar chains are highly standardized operations with resources that smaller independent operations do not have,” said Sejal Parikh, the Executive Director of Working Washington. “Ever notice that every McDonald’s has the same food?

Seattle’s minimum wage law will begin taking effect on April 1, 2015, when every minimum wage worker receives a significant wage increase:

  • If you work for a large company or chain with more than 500 employees nationally (for example: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Target, Macy’s), your minimum wage goes to $11 on April 1, 2015, reaching $15 on January 1, 2017 or January 1, 2018 and then adjusting with inflation after that.
  • If you work for a smaller company or chain with 500 or fewer employees nationally, your employer has to fulfill two criteria on April 1, 2015: your wage has to be at least $10/hour, and the total of your wage, any tips you receive, and the value of health benefits paid for by your employer must be at least $11/hour.
  • Workers at these smaller companies reach a $15/hour wage in 2019 or 2021, and everyone reaches parity with the citywide minimum wage by 2025.
  • Adjustments for tips and healthcare benefits are completely phased out by that time — in the end, every worker must be paid the same citywide minimum wage, with no deductions of any kind.

Although an injunction was not issued, the franchise industry lawsuit will still proceed to trial later this year.

Regardless of the attempt to tie up Seattle’s law in court, workers across the state and across the country will continue to push for action to raise wages and advance workers rights to ensure that everyone can support themselves, afford the basics, and contribute to the economy. Just last week, workers in Olympia launched their own campaign for a $15 minimum wage in that city.

More information:

The International Franchise Association, the lead plaintiff in the case, is a DC lobby group representing both franchisors and franchisees. Their board includes executives from McDonald’s, Marriott, and other giant franchisors.

This lawsuit is so toxic that even ALEC, the notorious ultraconservative policy group, has denied their involvement. However, the Guardian recently exposed leaks from an ALEC meeting showing their involvement in the strategy of selecting spokespeople who “put the right face” on this debate.

Franchisors maintain extensive control over operations, including branding, menus, ingredients, pricing, quality control, training, operations, scheduling, and more. By controlling everything but the wages, franchisors effectively control the wages too.


Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington,