By Victoria Cavaliere
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Seattle business group said it has fallen short of the number of signatures needed to force a November vote seeking to repeal a municipal ordinance that raises the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Forward Seattle, which represents restaurants, retailers and other businesses, said late on Wednesday that its petition was 1,237 signatures short of the 16,510 needed to compel the city to include a vote on the measure during upcoming balloting.
The proposal would have asked Seattle voters to repeal a $15 minimum wage that was approved by a unanimous vote of the City Council in June and signed by Mayor Ed Murray. It is scheduled to go into effect over several years.
Forward Seattle and other opponents said the law will hurt local and independent businesses and could prevent other businesses from expanding or moving to the city.
"We are not done," the group said in a statement. "Tell the Seattle City Council and mayor you want to vote!"
Seattle is among several cities leading the way in a national push by Democrats to raise minimum wages, and the move marked the first time a major U.S. city has committed to such a high base level of pay. Seattle's current minimum wage stands at $9.32 an hour.
Under the plan approved by the City Council, businesses with fewer than 500 workers must raise wages to $15 in the next seven years, while larger businesses must meet that mark within three years.
The measure also faces a challenge from the International Franchise Association, which has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the Seattle law.
The group argues the measure illegally discriminates against franchises, many of which have fewer than 500 employees, because it would force them to pay employees $15 an hour within three years while other businesses would have more time.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)