Stranger publisher: Seattle can ‘raise the minimum wage and keep our independent business alive’

The 15 Now organization's District 3 group met for the first time on Saturday at Caffe Vita (Image via 15 Now on Facebook)

The 15 Now organization’s District 3 group met for the first time on Saturday at Caffe Vita (Image via 15 Now on Facebook)

Last week, CHS reported on the national drive to address income inequality arriving on our Capitol Hill as Senator Patty Murray spoke about an increase in the federal minimum wage at the Capitol Hill headquarters of local Seattle ice cream chain, Molly Moon’s. The local inequality debate has also been underway as a contest of words — and increasingly, actions to organize — with a push for a $15 minimum in Seattle driven by City Council member Kshama Sawant and a more moderate support for the ideal from Mayor Ed Murray who has promised community-forged recommendations by April for raising the minimum.

As several Capitol Hill business owners and representatives from area organizations met in a closed door session last week with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to begin discussing strategies for shaping the climb to a $15 minimum wage in the city, one of the neighborhood’s most prominent business leaders — and publisher of the Seattle media outlet that has thus far been the biggest champion of Sawant and the $15/hour wage — has thrown his $0.02 in with a call for a phased-in approach that protects Seattle’s “small, independent businesses.

Here’s what Stranger publisher Tim Keck — inspired, apparently, by this Seattle Times essay, of all things — had to say Monday morning about raising the minimum wage in his city:

It would be a huge loss to the city if we lost local, independently owned businesses that can’t absorb a 60 percent wage hike the way that chain businesses can. We can raise the minimum wage and keep our independent business alive if we do this correctly. Small and independent businesses need time to manage the financial impact of a wage increase as large as this. Otherwise, big chains who can leverage their labor and supplies nationally and internationally will have an unfair advantage.

We have questions out to Keck about the timing of his post and what ideas he would like to see discussed by the Mayor’s income inequality task force. UPDATE 12:50 PM: Keck tells us the minimum wage debate is “the city’s most important issue” and to watch for more rounded coverage from his paper:

The minimum wage topic is the city’s most important issue and The Stranger is going to be weighing in from many different perspectives. This is a big deal and there needs to be a big discussion. Personally, I’m optimistic. I think people see the need for an increase in the minimum wage while preserving small business.

In the meanwhile, CHS is talking with neighborhood businesses about the best ways to get to the higher wage in Seattle without permanently damaging the small and local economy. Here are some of the early ideas we heard when we talked with food and drink business owners about the debate late last year. In addition to concepts like tip credit, some are pointing to solutions that helped smooth the way for paid sick leave in the city as a model for reaching a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. If you would like to talk with us about the wage, drop us a line.

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6 thoughts on “Stranger publisher: Seattle can ‘raise the minimum wage and keep our independent business alive’

      • There’s absolutely nothing legally preventing you from reporting what Capitol Hill businesses said in that meeting. I’d go so far as to say that it’s your job to do so – even more, since it’s a matter of huge local import.

      • Of course there isn’t. But the chamber also didn’t “legally” have to allow me to attend, either. I gave my word when we discussed my attendance. I make similar agreements on a regular basis as a reporter when dealing with private information. I’ve been able to sit in on planning and design meetings so I can better understand a situation before I report on it. I plan to report on everything newsworthy I heard that day — but not directly from the meeting. We’ll continue to cover the issues around $15/hr and, thanks to being able to be present at the meeting, I have important insights on who to talk to and what to ask them. I’m glad the chamber allowed me to be there but I won’t be keeping any secrets.

  1. I get that national chains can leverage supplies and take advantage of their size to procure better deals, but how exactly do you leverage labor nationally for a minimum wage service job?