Vaulting his city to the forefront of the nationwide minimum wage debate, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is sending his City Council a plan to phase in a $15-an-hour minimum wage for employees in the Emerald City.

The mayor said his proposal would "improve the lives of workers who can barely afford to live" in the high-tech city.

Mayor Murray's initiative has been bolstered by the election of an avowed socialist, the first in 100 years, to the Seattle City Council. Kshama Sawant made the $15 proposal the cornerstone of her election to the council.

The proposal treats differently sized businesses in separate ways. Some smaller businesses will be able to count tips and health care toward the $15 an hour. Larger businesses will not. The phase-in schedules for small and large businesses are likewise different.

The mayor's wage proposal follows the success of a similar $15-an-hour measure passed in late 2013 by residents of nearby SeaTac, where the area's international airport is located. That voter-approved plan initially covered all employees in SeaTac, but a judge threw out the portion of it that covered employees at SeaTac International Airport, which is governed by the Port of Seattle.

Murray's proposal reaches the City Council on Monday.