Sigh. If there's one thing I've grown weary of in the whole debate over the $15 an hour minimum wage, it's our media's desperate search for cautionary tales of the impending economic doom faced by affected small businesses. Take, for example, KING-5's Linda Brill's safari to SeaTac to observe the devastation wrought by the $15 minimum wage initiative there: "Coffee shop owner Mike Condon tells us that $15 an hour will kill his business," Brill reports.
Oh no! Heaven forfend! Except, as a small business located in neither the airport nor a hotel, Mike’s Community Cup is not subject to SeaTac Proposition 1. You know, just like every other small business our local media has thus far featured as a potential victim of a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Well, I suppose there's the not-so-small Cedarbrook Lodge, which repeatedly warned that it would "be forced to lay people off" should SeaTac Prop 1 pass, and then proceeded to do exactly that. No, wait. They did exactly the opposite. Just weeks after Prop 1 passed, Cedarbrook Lodge announced a 67-room expansion:
“By moving forward with the expansion, in spite of the passage or defeat of Proposition 1, we are going to be adding jobs to the SeaTac market and that is something we are proud of.”
So while their mouths made the case against $15, their actions make the case for it. Dollars to donuts you won't see mention of Cedarbrook's expansion in a Seattle Times editorial.
Likewise, KING 5 definitively reported that $15 "WILL kill his business," not "would" or "might," yet you won't see a correction from Brill, who would no doubt claim she sprinkled her reporting with just enough caveats (a single "if" thrown in later in the segment) to clue the observant viewer into understanding that Condon's fears are merely hypothetical. As for the unobservant viewer (i.e., most of them), they'll just take away the oft-repeated message that $15 is a job-killer.
But the fact is, our media hasn't clearly documented a single job being lost due to SeaTac Prop 1. Sure, there are employers who, like the folks at Cedarbrook, have said they would layoff workers if the initiative passed. And there are employers who now claim to be canceling or delaying (unverifiable) plans to expand. But so far, minimum wage opponents have yet to produce a single worker who has lost their job because their employer couldn't afford to pay $15 an hour. Not one.
No doubt a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage will cost some low-skilled workers their current jobs. Maybe a few percent. Even minimum wage supporters acknowledge this. At the very least, higher wages lead to higher productivity, and thus a reduction in the number of workers needed to produce the same level of output. But by putting dollars in the pockets of working people, a higher minimum wage would also create a demand-side stimulus that should boost the local economy, and thus generate even more jobs. Time will tell.
In the meanwhile, all this talk about job losses is nothing but speculation. And all this effort by our media elite to illustrate this speculation with real live people is sloppy journalism at best, and a deliberate deception at worst.