$15 minimum wage in Seattle? Here’s what Capitol Hill food+drink business owners think

A marcher at Thursday's rally for the $15 minimum in Seattle (Images: CHS)

A marcher at Thursday’s rally for the $15 minimum in Seattle (Images: CHS)

For Capitol Hill bar and restaurant owners, the discussion of a higher minimum wage in Seattle starts with tips and the smallest indie businesses making their way in the neighborhood’s bursting food and drink economy.

Lost Lake Cafe owner Dave Meinert said if a straight hike to $15 an hour happened tomorrow, the change would be a “doomsday” scenario for indie businesses, and would likely mean drastic cuts in hours at Lost Lake and could force the owner out of the diner business altogether.

“If we’re wrong and we jump the raise too high and too quickly, small businesses close down and big business fills the gap … it would kill the culture of the Hill,” Meinert said, adding that he fully supports a discussion about raising the minimum wage and believes a full-time job should support a worker living in the city.

Meanwhile, CHS is aware of at least one group of Capitol Hill small businesses that has discussed plans to counter the push for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle.

Several other food and drink business owners tell CHS they already pay their workers $15 –with tips — but that increasing the base wage would strain their businesses considerably.

The march toward a $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle — both politically and boots on the ground — has begun causing some in City Hall to claim it’s not a question of if but when. So another question might be, “How?”

Some independent restaurant and bar owners on Capitol Hill have serious reservations about an across the board 63% hike to the city’s minimum wage. CHS hopes to talk with Capitol Hill retailers next about the issue — if you’d like to be part of the conversation, let us know at chs@capitolhillseattle.com. While it may not be shocking that the restaurant and bar owners would prefer a cautious approach to raising Seattle’s minimum wage, the details of their concerns and thoughts about the change reveal they’re ready to have a discussion about how to do it right.

In an email to CHS, Poppy owner Jerry Traunfeld laid out the need for tip credit in a major wage hike (allowing workers to get to $15/hr through tips):

Like many other restaurant owners I’ve always struggled with the inequity between front of the house and back of the house wages. Those in the front of the house make much more in tips, and they end up making a significantly higher wage while working far fewer hours. When there is a minimum wage increase every January, the only employees in my restaurant that benefit are those who are already making the highest total wages per hour, since servers and service assistants are the only ones in the restaurant receiving the base minimum wage. If, like in many other states, we were allowed a tip credit, where we could pay a lower minimum wage to those employees making most of their income from tips, I could happily raise all of my kitchen worker’s wages to at least $15.  Profit margins in restaurants are very low. If minimum wage jumps to $15 an hour without a tip credit it would force me to raise my prices and/or cut back on staff, and it would certainly jeopardize the health of my business.

But raising prices might not be an option everywhere. An owner of a popular and affordable Capitol Hill restaurant said he supports a living wage but a bump to $15/hr for all his workers would require him to pass on that expense to customers. “I feel like a lot of my lower income clientele might not be able to afford the price increase or that it would be somewhat of a hardship for them,” the owner, who opted to participate in this report without being identified, wrote in an email to CHS.

Another high profile restaurateur also opted to provide insight “off the record” at this point — “We love our employees,” she said. “But we would be talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prices will go up.” That owner said her biggest fears were for restaurants and bars trying to make it through the first year of operations. She also wondered how the Hill’s already challenged retailers could absorb the higher wages.

A representative of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, often a big supporter of worker’s rights issues, said a $15 minimum wage without a tip credit would be difficult. “If the base rate for an employee receiving tips is $15, that might not be sustainable,” wrote Emilia Arnold.

Another owner of a Capitol Hill bar who also manages a manufacturing business said the tavern and the larger business would still pencil out in a $15 minimum economy:

Our businesses would survive.  We pay most everybody at XXX $15 or more.  But I know the topic is complicated and contentious.  What may be good big-picture may not be good for individual small businesses. Some of those business owners are friends, and I’d be devastated to see those guys go under.

The $15 “with tips” goal appears to be a standard component for many owners on the Hill. One first-time owner preparing to open his venture on Capitol Hill said surviving his first year would be ”a tough proposition” if the $15 rate became mandatory instead of tip-driven. How any proposed minimum wage law could include tip/non-tip classifications is yet to be seen. Another legislative tweak that could come into play could be an exemption for businesses with few employees. Seattle’s paid sick leave rules signed into law in 2011 apply only to businesses with five or more employees.

IMG_3048At least one food and drink owner welcomes the change. Eric Banh, who co-owns Monsoon as well as 12th Ave’s Ba Bar, said he will be happy to join a $15 minimum wage.

“This will mean the restaurant business in Seattle will finally be equal with how it treats people,” Banh said.

Banh, who said his non-tip employees range in pay from $12 an hour to $17, would raise his prices to continue to make his businesses work. But he’d be happy to pay more if the law requires everybody else to follow suite — even though he expects the change will be “painful” for the city’s restaurant industry in the near term.

“Fast food places need to be brought up,” he said. “If we all have to do it, then it will be fair and we’ll figure out how to make it work.”

Riding a swell of support from Capitol Hill, Kshama Sawant beat a four-term incumbent by pushing a $15 minimum wage as her cornerstone policy issue. In Hill-dominated Council District 3 Sawant picked up 58.4% of the vote, her best district, making her an obvious frontrunner for CD3 in 2015. But the next two years will be crucial, especially as Sawant begins working with the district’s influential mass of entertainment-dominated small businesses.

In September, then mayoral challenger Ed Murray announced he would also push for a $15 minimum wage, albeit cautiously. Murray urged the city council to pass a $100,000 study of the wage hike, which they did in November. Meinert, who backed Murray during the campaign, said he supports Murray’s incremental approach to a wage hike in the city.

“Business owners need to look at how much it realistically costs to live in the city,” he said.”But you also have to look at the realistic cost and risk of opening a business … if you pay everyone more, that doesn’t mean more people come in your business.”

89 thoughts on “$15 minimum wage in Seattle? Here’s what Capitol Hill food+drink business owners think

  1. ”Lost Lake Cafe owner Dave Meinert said if a straight hike to $15 an hour happened tomorrow [it] could force the owner out of the diner business altogether.”

    Another reason to support $15 an hour minimum wage!

  2. My position is more nuanced than it’s made to sound here.

    I do think the minimum wage should increase. I don’t think every business on Capitol Hill will close if the minimum wage is raised to $15 immediately across the board. I do think that sudden increase would close several businesses though, and those would most likely be smaller independent businesses.

    Larger business can and probably should increase wages more than small businesses.

    Most of all, I think the discussion sparked by the Occupy and $15 minimum wage movement is excellent. We need to address income inequality in our country, and raising the minimum wage, along with the Affordable Care act, more money for transit and education, higher taxes on the wealthy, affordable housing, etc, are issues we need to act on, we can act on, now, to start addressing it.

    • Can you think about your employees for one second? Do you think workers at independent businesses need less money to live than people who work at chains?

      This isn’t like sick leave where you essentially lobbied yourself to be exempt. It’s not about business owners. If anything, we should look at business owners’ income to determine how much they can afford for their employees minimum wage. I think that would require a minimum wage at your bars of about $100/hour.

    • Okay Dave, we get it. Just like the Sick Leave law, you think it’s great as long as there’s an exemption for you. You’re special. Your employees aren’t special enough to see commensurate wage increases because… well… they’re aren’t as special as titans of capital like yourself.

      How many employees do you have in all the businesses that you own and will soon own? Do you think it’s fair for you to be exempt from paying your employees a livable wage simply because you can compartmentalize them into separate businesses? How is that different in practice from a McDonald’s or Subway franchisee?

      Let’s be clear here. You, Lajeunesse, and Derschang have enough money coming in to open up a new place every year or so, but you claim you can’t pay your workers enough to live on. Come on, pull our other leg.

      • Yup! These guys just don’t get it. And most of the low-income people he worries about, if they’re working, they’ll likely see pay raises, duh!

        (Yes, there are older and disabled folks who might be left behind, but that’s certainly another discussion and, perhaps, another initiative that may be needed to make sure all types of folks are taken into account. It’s ot an acceptable excuse for note raising the wage closer to a living one. Even at $15/hour, Capitol Hill is overpriced).

    • …”higher taxes on the wealthy”…..
      Er, you do realize that the people that want you to pay $15 per hour believes YOU as a business owner are the “wealthy”.

      • I do think I would be in a group of people who should pay higher taxes. In fact, for 2013, I will pay more than 2012 due tax increases to pay for the Affordable Care Act. I support that.

        I don’t think small businesses should be exempt from a minimum wage increase. And my businesses are not exempt from mandatory sick days. I do think large businesses, like say McDonald’s and Walmart, who can easily pay better wages, should be required to pay more. Some very small businesses, with say, fewer than 10 employees, may be exempt from a city minimum wage, but held to the state wide minimum. (My companies would not be exempt).

        What’s important is that we have a serious conversation here without vilifying people. Let’s all agree that workers in the US have been screwed the last several decades, and that trickle/ top down economics is bullshit for everyone but the very wealthy. Middle out economics is what we should be discussing. To me it’s not about whether we should raise the minimum wage or not, it’s about by how much and when.

        • From SMC 14.16.030(I):

          “When paid sick or safe time is requested by an employee who works in an eating and/or drinking establishment, the employer may offer the employee substitute hours or shifts. If the employee accepts the offer and works these substitute hours or shifts, the amount of time worked during the substitute period or the amount of time requested for sick and safe time, whichever is smaller, may be deducted from the employee’s accrued sick and safe time. Should the employee work the substitute hours or shifts, the employer shall comply with any applicable federal, state or local laws concerning overtime pay. However, no employer is required to offer such substitute hours or shifts, and no employee is required to accept such hours or shifts if they are offered.”

          That’s an exemption. You pushed hard for an exemption into the law saying that businesses like yours could offer replacement hours which are then deducted from your employee’s sick leave, even though that negates the entire purpose of sick leave. You are out nothing. (And why only companies like yours?)

          Also, despite being one of the larger employers on the Hill, all your businesses are classified as Tier One businesses, which means that you don’t have to (and don’t) give your employees as many sick days as other businesses. This is also an exemption, one that you again pressured the city to write for you.

          If you want a serious conversation, the first thing you need to do is drop all this doublespeak and PR talk and blatant politicking… and these straight out lies.

          But let me draw this clear bright line for you: $15/hour is not negotiable.

        • Then how about you stay out of the discussion FOR ONCE? Nobody trusts you to have anyone’s best interests at heart besides your own. You’ve benefited enormously from the current system and you’ll benefit enormously whatever reform is passed. Just stay out of it, it’s not your voice that we haven’t heard enough of in our political system.

    • I don’t know Mr. Meinhert or patronize his businesses. But I am struck by the contrast between his calm/rational statements and those who are trying to villify him, who have an angry and accusatory tone. There seems to be some personal vendetta going on. I doubt he is the bad guy that some are trying to portray.

      • I have no personal problem with Dave Meinert, either. I’m sure he’s a very charismatic and friendly guy.

        Our problem with Dave Meinert is that he inserts himself into EVERY progressive measure the city is looking at, and lobbies/forces his way into making sure he makes more money. He’s already extremely successful financially and we are sick of him acting like he’s a victim.

        He’s basically a PR guy when he talks about how progressive he is. It’s complete bullshit. He lobbied against Bill Gates Sr’s income tax for the rich, he lobbied for the fine-panhandlers ordinance, he successfully lobbied to change the sick leave law, he publicly whined about how the city wasn’t giving him special privileges for outdoor patios, he lobbied to allow pulltabs in his bars, etc.

        I’m completely fine with him if he would SHUT UP about local politics. He’s great at sounding progressive, but as soon as specifics come up he’s as close to a 1% Republican as we have in Seattle.

    • One important part of the equation people seem to keep forgetting is that once a huge part of the local population is suddenly making 63% more than they used to those people will be able to afford to go to all these business that will be hurt so bad by the change! Meaning you will be paying your staff more, but you’ll be taking in a lot more income in turn. I personally would love to spend more of money locally but I can’t afford to so I buy everything online and rarely ever eat out. A huge hike in my paychecks would certainly put a lot more of my money into local businesses, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

      • I fear there’s a good chance the business that are complaining are those that serve higher-income customers and don’t expect to recoup new expenses with new minimum-wage customers.

        Likewise, though, there must be shops that already pay their staff relatively well and expect to find many more customers among the beneficiaries of a higher minimum. I wish we’d hear from some of those.

      • I wish your argument held up, but it’s exactly like saying you can reduce your tax bill by donating to charity. Yes, if you donate $100, you’ll pay $15-40 less in taxes… but it cost you $100. Similarly, a $100 rise in wage expenses will never come back as a $100 increase in money spent at local businesses. (Because taxes, if nothing else.) So it may be nice to do for other reasons, but it’s not a win financially.

        And I’m skeptical that people who go from making $20,000 to making $30,000 are suddenly going to eat out a bunch.

  3. While everyone is focusing on bar and restaurant workers, there are a lot of others of us in other fields who make less that $15/hr. I recently received a job positing for a marketing assistant through one of the temp agencies that I work through. This person needed a bachelor’s degree, minimum three years of experience in email marketing, was required to design and code email campaigns, had to know Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In addition to email campaigns, they would be called on to design and produce marketing collateral for both online and print. The wage, $14/hr with no benefits.

    • This is a great comment. Whenever people say, “well these unskilled fast food workers should just go back to school/get a better job,” this is the new office worker “entry level.” It requires a four-year degree (that costs more than ever to earn, and frankly seems nice-to-have but probably unnecessary for this type of job), specialized skills (which will require additional technical training expenditure, or plenty of free time and resources to self-learn), and 3 years of experience – for a measly, miserly $14/hr, no benefits.

      This is only a buck or two more an hour than I earned in these types of jobs when I was just starting out in my career fresh out of college in the Seattle area 15 years ago. Except they offered benefits. And didn’t require 3 years of experience.

      • For sure. I was making just a smidge more than $15.00/hour for several years at Sound Mental Health with my freaking MSW. I mean, we all know social work pays like crap, but that shit is crazy. A lot of local agencies pay even less. I am very curious to see how a minimum wage increase would impact social service. But anyway, I digress. I totally agree with you; I think people who think that all “skilled” workers are making oer $15.00 are very naive.

    • If you have all of those skills and experience no way in hell would you be making $14hr and if you are it’s your fault for taking something so low you could easily go any where and make over 60k+.

      • Yes, because everyone automatically makes $60k+ with a Bachelor’s and some skills. A large number of entry level positions require that much and more yet only pay $14-15/hr, if you’re lucky to get one of them. If you think that’s bullsh**, how do you think the people who went through all kinds of school to get those skills and experiences feel? To raise minimum wage for no skill/experience necessary jobs to that level without affecting skills required jobs only devalues education more. There has to change across the board.

        • I am saying the poster claims he has front end developer and graphic design skills. Those type of skills go for over $25hr easy. I have never in my life heard of someone making under $25 knowing front end + graphic design that had 3yrs experience especially in Seattle. Guy is full of it.

          • I couldn’t agree with you more. I didn’t accept the job exactly because I felt it was insultingly low for what they were requiring. It SHOULD have been over $25/hr but the agency was only offering $14 (who knows what they were charging the client), and evidently they found someone who took it.

            Many of us older workers, having lost our jobs during the recession, can only find short-term contract work through agencies, and I’ve noticed a downward pressure on wages over the past couple of years. I used to get assignments paying $28-$35/hr, but now most are in the $20-$25 range. That would be fine if it were full time, but most range from a few hour’s work to maybe a couple of weeks. Yes, this particular job listing was ridiculous, but I hope it doesn’t become the norm.

    • Just a tip, temp agencies usually lowball their salaries ridiculously because they get paid a solid $X (usually well over $100k/yr) to fill a spot. Anything they pay their workers comes out of that. I have a friend who got $24.50/hr for a job listed at $13/hr. You’ll only have leverage after you’ve been accepted by the client or nobody else qualified will accept less…

    • I am not a lawyer but it doesn’t work that way. To work unpaid overtime a job must be exempt from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which, to the best of my knowledge, most restaurant or other hourly jobs are not. I don’t know how FLSA applies to <50 employee businesses but I do know that the requirements for exempt positions are pretty specific. If businesses could legally manage the risk of overtime by putting waiters and other hourly workers on salary, they would be doing it already

      • Years ago when I was a manager at a Pizza Hut that’s exactly what they did. I was paid around $28,000/yr and was required to work AT LEAST 50hrs/week. It was, of course, not “mandatory.” But, your year end bonus would be affected my the number of weeks you worked under 50 hours.

  4. What evan said is partially true, a company can not make HOURLY employees work unpaid over time. But as soon as said employee becomes a salaried employee they sign a contract stating they will work X amount of hours a week to obtain that salary. Most places I have worked salaried it was 42-45 hrs a week.
    Now im all for a livable wage but wouldn’t it be better to start out slow like a 12 dollar an hour min wage? then give it a few years re evaluate the situation and then raise it gradually? I feel the greatest asset that the fast food workers have is unionizing. If fast food places and restaurants unionized wouldn’t that be in the best interest of the workers? Most fast food places don’t want a union because they know then they would have to pay and respect the people they employ ,it would guarantee a fair wage and affordable health care but most places wont give benefits to employees that works under a certain amount of hours with a union it would force them to carry a certain number of fulltime 40 employees excluding management.

    • I agree that any increase in the minimum wage should be incremental….such as to $11/hour initially, then assess the results. A sudden increase to $15/hour is a foolish idea, and will result in closing of businesses, loss of hours and/or job for employees, and increased prices.

      • This is the same thing as when they forced the increase of pay for anything over 40 hours. I remember working as many hours as I needed to pay my bills no problem. The employer needed the work done, and I wanted a bigger paycheck. But as soon as the law changed, no one was allowed to work over 38-39 hours. I had to get a second job.

        • Thinking back on that, it was also when all the big companies were forced to restructure and fire all of middle management. For example, each Sears had a president and several VP’s in oak panel offices, a secretary (even a police force) as well as department managers. Every one of them got forced retirement or just let go. The positions were eliminated. Now days there is just a store manager in a storage room. It was devastating to many families. I recall years later running into a former VP that had taken a job as a night security guard.

    • …”If fast food places and restaurants unionized wouldn’t that be in the best interest of the workers?”…

      No. It’s in the best interest of the union. The dues.

      • Unions need income to perform their function just like any other entity in our economic system. The question for the workers is: do you think you can get a better deal by negotiating with management one worker at a time, or is it in your best interests to join together to negotiate as a group?

    • I am an employer and have been the CEO of companies with less than and more than 50 FTEs. Evan is correct. A very specific litmus test exists for who is exempt and who is non-exempt, one of those tests is whether or not the employee has substantial management duties and has authority to hire and fire. Several others exist. So it is only a few specific employees and fields that can pay salary. Other restrictions also exist on salaried employees but I don’t want to bother with that here. Suffice it to say that you cannot just avoid overtime because you want to. Also, plenty of companies skirt those rules, including Microsoft, who has been in trouble with FLSA requirements over and over.

    • Virtually nothing you posted is correct. Very few salaried employees sign a contract for hours. In fact, that destroys the “at-will” employment policy that most companies work to protect. No employer makes a contract unless required to do so by a specific union. Unionizing would not “guarantee” anything for those employees. It would not guarantee a greater wage or benefits. It would mean that they would pay dues though. Don’t believe me? Research union pay rates for casual labor as opposed to non unionized. The only thing the union will accomplish is to gain income and fees from more members. You cannot squeeze blood from a turnip. Recently, ag workers in Southern California tried to de-certify a union who had not been present for over a decade. They were happy with the wage they had,a bad the union had nothin to do with that wage because they had been absent. So they tried to dissolve the union presence. The union fought it tooth and nail. Why? Because the unions are just another money making scheme feeding off the poor.

      • Except of course for all the workers who rely on unions to protect their collective interests in the workplace.

        I’m not familiar with the incident you cite, but IF the situation was as you describe, the workers have every right to be angry – with the caveat that in this day-and-age workers should have a better understanding that THEY are their union, NOT the staff they hire to run the day-to-day business. If that staff isn’t performing up to the member’s satisfaction, there should be mechanisms to replace them with people who WILL. But, the workers themselves do bear some responsibility if their union reps aren’t working in their best interests. After all, a union is not just something you join and forget about; you have to put a bit of effort into it, if you want to get anything out of it. It’s sort of like a health club membership in that respect: you can pay the monthly fees, but if you don’t go in even occasionally to do the exercises, you get no benefit out of it.

  5. As a small business owner and employer on Capitol Hill, I do not support this movement. I think it will either kill some local, small businesses or the increase will be passed onto the consumers. We currently pay our employees $15 an hour but that is after they have proven themselves to a value to our company. You think it’s hard to find a job when you’re young and inexperienced now…..wait until employers have to pay you a $15 starting wage. I guarantee you that, as an employer paying $15 an hour, I will no longer hire people without a minimum of several years experience and some age on their side. If you’re a teen, you can forget trying to find a job. No one is going to pay you $15 an hour for a summer job. I do think that folks working full time should earn a livable wage but killing local, small businesses isn’t the way to do it. This is truly so short sited.

    • Look, people can’t live on $9 an hour. Not in Seattle. And we’re not talking about teenagers here at all, we’re talking about adults, many of them with at least some college education. $15 an hour isn’t even a heck of a lot of money, and in this city (particularly if you’re not offering benefits on top), it means you’re struggling to get by.

      • I think this is a separate issue. My household is over $100,000 and we can barely afford to live in a 700sq ft condo on the hill. We should be looking at rent control and low income housing as solutions to this legitimate problem. And businesses that make over a certain amount should be forced to pay their workers a higher wage. All this across-the-board mandatory increase is going to do is drive already struggling business owners under and force them to close, leaving your city full of even more banks and Office Maxes. Or people like Meinert and Derschang, who have a monopoly on all the theme bars in the area, which many of you also complain about.

    • I haven’t had employee’s since the mid 90′s because of the changes inflicted on businesses back then. Trying to run a business with staff is very expensive. It’s not the money that is paid to the employee for the work done, it’s all the “fees” for having the employee that makes it expensive. Of course the people calling for this don’t care if it puts a business under and the staff has no job. They view the business owners as “parasites” anyway.

      …”If you’re a teen, you can forget trying to find a job”…
      Yup. I go so far as to say the 18-29′s are now out too.

      • My relative owns a small business and often goes for months without paying herself so that she can afford to pay her staff the wages they make now.

        It’s odd that this proposal has been framed as the little guy versus large corporations, because small business owners are the little guy, too, and this will have a devastating impact on some of them. Meinert and Derschang may not be good examples of those people, but there are so many middle-to-lower middle class shop owners who will be affected and possibly forced to close as a result of this. Unless you want to see your city completely taken over by these corporations you claim to hate, you need to find ways to make it easier for small businesses to survive. I think there should be an increased wage, but not to $15 an hour.

        • Yup. Every dime goes right back into the business to keep it running. That’s what happens to the profit in a business.

          “It’s odd that this proposal has been framed as the little guy versus large corporations”

          This is the labor unions driving the push to get the fast food industry. Can you imagine how little of the $15 the employee will see after all the taxes and dues come out?
          We may see the return of mom and pop family only business.

      • But this is primarily because so many adults have been thrown out of long-term, good-paying jobs and are forced to take low-wage, fast food type work just to maintain some kind of income and prevent the bank from taking the house or the car.

        This isn’t a done-deal yet, and there’s plenty of time to hash out details which, presumably, can make the wage increase tolerable: phasing it in over several years, exceptions for very small businesses, etc., etc. But employers ALWAYS complain that they either can’t afford to pay more, or that doing so will mean passing the increase along to consumers – so what? Most of us out here that support people earning an honest day’s pay for a day’s work are going to accept that increase; I for one am perfectly willing to pay a little more for a meal, knowing full-well that the person making, serving or cleaning up after it, can actually afford to keep a roof over their head and feed their family. And as someone pointed out above, that also comes with the knowledge that these same workers can now afford to spend a little more of their income on modest luxuries like a dinner out once in awhile themselves.

        • Yes….but….if wages go up to $15/hour, you are not going to have to pay “a little” more….you are going to have to pay ALOT more. Are you willing to accept an increase in prices, on a percentage basis, commensurate with the wage increase percentage?

  6. Tipping is a silly system; only an Ayn Rand devotee would believe that it reliably links income to performance, and many industries show that service levels can be maintained without that mechanism.

    So, why not let Seattle begin the end of this nonsense? If enough restauranteurs raise prices but stated “gratuity included”, they ought to remain competitive for both customers and workers.

    (Here in my other home, Amsterdam, the locals will explain that it’s not necessary to tip more than a small gesture “because we pay everyone a living wage.” Ideally, Seattle would just raise all the sales taxes and institute a basic income, but that’s not tenable in the US.)

    • I completely agree. The tipping system’s time has come and this minimum wage discussion is great for that effort.
      I would rather a higher price be reflected on the menu than have to calculate a certain percentage I feel the server ‘deserves’. If the owners in the article take tipping out of the equation and just add an across the board 15% gratuity to the prices, how would that help them pencil in the raises service workers would be getting?

    • Completely agreed… Tipping is also discriminatory based on the server’s race, gender, and attractiveness. As part of the minimum wage law the council should mandate service fees at places that accept tips.

      • Why add extra service fees on top of a 15/hr salary? Owners should pay a living wage and charge what their food costs plus enough to make a profit. Customers can then tip only if they want to instead of subsidizing these business owners.

  7. Who is going to pay for the $15 minimum wage? Not immediately, but it will be the people earning the $15 minimum wage. When employers raise prices to maintain their expected profit margin I will get a similar increase in my already high salary to keep my expected level of comfort. All prices will increase. Rinse. Repeat.

    A one-off like this may result in some short term improvement for some people but it doesn’t address the numerous problems at the bottom of the economy. Good luck though.

  8. Washington already has the highest statewide minimum wage in the US.

    We should look at what cities like Washington DC are doing, which has the most progressive minimum wage for a city in the US. There, it is $12.50 per hour for companies with annual revenues over $1 billion (Target, Walmart, McDonald’s, etc). Then they are about to pass a new minimum wage for all businesses that goes to $11.50, but gets there over the next three years. Tipped employees are guaranteed that minimum, but the tips are included in the determination of their total compensation. Given that DC has a higher cost of living than Seattle, it seems this is a plan to look at.

    Keep in mind that raising the minimum wage will raise prices. And not just consumer prices, but also wholesale prices. So small businesses will have both their costs of goods and their cost of labor increase. Local companies that wholesale to businesses in Seattle, could be forced to move out of Seattle to compete with similar companies located close but outside the city limits.

  9. What about the employee who has worked hard over time at a job to earn his/her raises and now makes $15 and hour, and then, if this passes, has to train the new guy who is also making $15 and hour?

  10. Food/Beverage Industry employees in Washington should consider themselves lucky. Most states are only required to pay such workers $2.13 an hour since the employees also earn tips.
    Also, $15 minimum would not be feasible for many other types of retail work unless Washington State adopts a Statewide Income Tax and slashes its B&O taxes. Most states with populations similar to Washington have a state income tax. In many ways, it would be a simpler process than the ones they have now.

    • I was going to post a comment and ask about the special minimum wage for tip-earning jobs. So that doesn’t exist in Washington State? Is there an RCW statute that makes this explicit?

      Doesn’t that make it more unreasonable that the front-of-house staff doesn’t share tips with kitchen staff?

    • I don’t know that anyone making less than median income should consider themselves lucky, but your point about our state’s incredibly regressive tax policy is a good one. I’m 100% in support of $15 an hour… I would also be completely in support of overhauling B&O and instituting a state income tax.

  11. Raising restaurant and bar prices is one thing, people can eat at home. If you raise wages to $15 immediately though, what about childcare? Do people honestly think childcare companies will be able to just increase prices to pay people better? If they did, what happens to the working families, single working mothers, etc, all on already tight budgets? Do we just not care?

    • There are definitely some Capitol Hill business/organization types that will be especially challenged. We’re sorting out what to follow up on and childcare providers is on the list.

    • It’s good to consider these kind of effects on other industries, but my experience is that childcare workers, while not paid as much as they should be, often make more than $15 per hour. There is also a considerable informal market for childcare with private individuals setting their own prices (e.g. care.com , sittercity.com). So, I don’t think you need to be worried about this industry.

      Also, regarding the argument here and elsewhere that passing higher costs would hurt lower income groups (including in the article – “I feel like a lot of my lower income clientele might not be able to afford the price increase or that it would be somewhat of a hardship for them,”). This is questionable because those lower income people would now have more money. Furthermore, to stay competitive, I doubt employers of minimum wage workers would raise prices equal to the increased wage costs. This means those lower income workers would have even more expendable income… which can be spent at their choice of businesses, or towards their own saving and investment.

      • NOT true. As someone with an MA working in childcare – I work for two places to make ends meet. One with horrific track record in employee treatment – which I would report if I didn’t need the job – and people stay there for years because they pay $12/hr, which is way above the average. Most postings I find for childcare jobs offer $9-$11 an hour. Add to this that most don’t provide insurance as positions are generally part time (not that you could afford it anyway, on your income), and while you may in theory have sick days, the pressure to come in while sick is probably higher than in food service.

        I agree that families in general cannot absorb the $15/hr raise, but the way childcare workers are treated is absolutely abominable, and I can absolutely state that it’s your children who suffer for it.

        • The positions you see on sittercity, etc are for higher income families hiring nannies and other childcare servants for their personal use, NOT the people working in childcare and preschools who serve the VAST majority of children. Yes, you get paid up to $20 to nanny a kid (no benefits, must have own car) but $50 a day to manage a classroom of 20 five year olds.

  12. What people really haven’t taken too much into consideration is that other salaries, such as management salaries, will also have to correspondingly increase. So if I increase my base pay 150%, the 38% I currently pay in labor expenses including taxes will now be 57% and I will have to increase my prices 19% to stay in business. If my customers are ok with that, I’m happy, but it is a very big risk.

    • “other salaries, such as management salaries, will also have to correspondingly increase”

      umm, and who says they ‘have to”?

      This is one minor step to decrease the ridiculous income gap in this country. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM). It’s about recognizing that the lowest paid deserve a living wage. For those managers and other staff of yours already living on a comfortable wage, if they think they deserve a proportional raise out of this, kindly remind them that they’re the ones who will put you out of business.

      • “This is one minor step to decrease the ridiculous income gap in this country.”

        Uhm, no. The income gap that matters is not between entry level restaurant workers and their shift managers. Unless you believe that everyone should make the same salary regardless of the job performed.

        I bet very very few restaurant *owners* in this city are in the top 1%. (Yes, Tom Douglas probably…)

        I’m guessing the managers need raises too because they deserve a wage higher than the minimum for taking on extra responsibility, and they currently make either less or not much more than $15/hour.

        • Yes. You are correct. You have to adjusts pay accordingly. If you don’t think so, you haven’t run a business. If you do not adjust manager pay to correspond, you will not have managers. I love all these comments from people who have “an idea” about how the economics works but have never actually done it.

  13. Did you know that if you adjusted for the years between, minimum wage in the mid-sixties equals about $15 an hour in 2013? Funny, we had diners, fast food and other business that say they would be out of business if this were the wage today. I’m sure other economics factor in so this comment is more for perspective than revolution, but you get my drift.

    • That may be correct, but the average person paid a whole lot more in taxes than today and so the net is not so different. Also, in the 60s, people were not working in fast food to support families,

      • The high water year for the Federal minimum wage is considered to be 1968, the year it peaked in purchasing power. It was $1.58 per hour in 1968.

        Using the CPI to adjust for inflation equates that to $10.56 per hour in today’s money. NOT $15. This is the reasoning that gets us to pushing a $10.10 increase at a Federal level.

  14. I’m fine with there being a tip credit in the short run, but only if there’s a cap on the credit and only if it’s based on the actual tips received, since ostensibly the whole reason that we tip service industry workers in the first place is because they have shitty wages.

    Longer-term, if we can get back to a place where tips are there for exemplary service and not to subsidize shitty employer behavior, all the better.

  15. $15/hour min wage is a good idea BUT…

    1) There has to be a tip credit. Currently bar and restaurant servers are making $15-$65/hour. It’s random. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but the margins in those industries are very small. Non tipped based industries like fast food places can afford the higher min. wage because size/volume = bigger profit margin.

    2) I will only support it if we start collecting personal income taxes and reduce sales taxes back down to a reasonable % (like 5%). Too much burden is placed on small business already.

  16. The person who said that they think everyone with a bachelor’s and some skills should be making $60K or more is out of the loop. Do you know how many baristas at Starbucks have Master’s and PhD degrees? This isn’t because they choose a low-wage job. These days lots of companies ask for lots of education and skills and pay close to $10/hr and people have to take it because they need to survive. Also many companies only hire through temp agencies these days, so there is a class of second-class citizens working alongside the permanent workers doing the same jobs but without benefits, paid days off, and other perks of permanent employment (not to mention suffering the stress of the instability they are constantly under and being judged when they don’t get the permanent jobs that are no longer available). On top of that, then you have to hear that some companies throw your resume away if you have a lot of temp jobs, when that’s all many places offer these days–your very oppression is used against you to justify further oppression. In addition to this, places will ask what your last salary was, thinking you deserve no more than that. Again, blame the victim. Things need to change, and a lot of companies could still make a nice profit with a huge hike in minimum wage. Seattle also has a lot of rich tech workers–if their restaurant meals go up a little in price so that the person who sells them their latte doesn’t have to eat half-rotting produce from the food bank, I think I can live with that. Everyone is calling for civility. I agree with that, in principle, but the average worker is tired of being constantly kicked when s/he is down. We’re exhausted, struggling every moment just to survive, and then we have to justify our right to something that is barely even a living wage. I think we have a right to a bit of anger.

  17. Proposal for alternate approach to legislating this:

    The election of Sawant shows that there’s a base of support for the $15 minimum wage. Presumably anyone who voted for her would be willing to also vote with their money and favor businesses that voluntarily start paying a $15 minimum.

    So let’s create a certification for businesses that do this, and a Living Wage Business badge that those companies can put on their store fronts and in their advertising.

    Two levels: LWB Silver pays its own employees at least $15/hr; LWB Gold does that and more than half of its suppliers/contractor spending is with other LWBs.

    All of us who favor the $15 wage will make these Living Wage Businesses much more successful than their non-$15 competitors, leading to a de-facto wage standard.

    Also, businesses in surrounding towns can join.

  18. A higher minimum wage will make it so that more workers will be self sufficient. Why not create a system that provides workers with a living wage while also passing any savings from government assistance programs on to local small businesses?

  19. I haven’t read everyone’s comments, so I’m sorry if I’m being redundant. It seems the restaurateurs mentioned fail to grasp the total implications of a raise to the minimum wage in terms of disposable income that would most likely increase their business. Unless the only people they are interested in as a client base are those that are in a completely different tax bracket. If one looks at the big picture – a raise to the minimum wage would be a benefit to business. I don’t patronize Lost Lake and will not given the owners comments. But I have been to Poppy and am disappointed by Traumfeld’s comments. Seattle is an expensive city and getting more expensive by the quarter. Not even by the year. At some point all these restaurants will have no one to work for them because everyone will be priced out of the city.

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