The Washington, D.C.-based trade group for the franchising sector has engaged PR help on the ground in Seattle as it fights a legal and public affairs battle over the city's newly passed $15 minimum wage.

seattleThe International Franchise Association is mounting its offensive with Pacific Public Affairs, a 20-year-old PR shop run by Jim Kneeland, a former press secretary to Washington State Gov. Booth Gardner. It has engaged former US solicitor general Paul Clement for its legal challenge.

"We needed to put a stake in the ground here in Seattle," Matt Haller, senior VP of communications and public affairs for the IFA said of hiring the PR firm. He noted the trade group is not a federation and does not have local chapters, so PPA is providing media relations and other PR support as the IFA mounts its campaign to stop the Seattle law and curb any movement to pass similar wage laws around the US. "It's about the SEIU's attempt to destroy the franchise business model," Haller said, referencing the Service Employees International Union that helped push the law through and is campaigning nationally on the issue.

The IFA, along with five franchisees, sued Seattle in federal court today to block the $15 wage mark from taking effect on April 1, 2015, alleging it discriminates against franchisees by treating them as large corporations and not individual businesses. The new minimum wage applies to businesses with more than 500 employees.

Seattle's city council voted to hike the wage to the highest in the nation for a large city on June 2 on a unanimous, 9-0, vote after negotiations with business and labor leaders put together by Mayor Ed Murray.

"We hope the court will block the ordinance to save jobs and prevent Seattle from unfairly singling out one type of business -- a franchise -- for punitive treatment," IFA president and CEO Steve Caldeira said.

IFA has launched SeattleFranchiseFairness.com as part of the push.

Joining the suit with IFA are the owners of AlphaGraphics stores, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express and BrightStar Care in the city.