What If We Made Only Businesses with $1 Billion in Yearly Sales Pay $15 Minimum Wage?


Question Meinert:

Why is it you can continuously open new businesses - seemingly one every couple of years - but at the same time plead poverty when it comes to paying your employees a Living Wage?
Businesses with earnings over $1B is very different than business with sales of over $1B. Nice try.

Why don't you just charge me for my meal what it takes to pay a living wage to your employees, rather than trying to lump in some arbitrary "I pay for part of the labor" tip as part of their compensation?
Meinert must be some kind of masochist.
I was actually going to say pretty much exactly what @2 said (and probably said more concisely than I would have). Also, given Anna's excellent post yesterday on how tricky enforcement is already, do we really want to have to have accountants figure out exactly when a company passes a certain, arbitrary mark in order to declare that they are now liable to pay higher wages? How the hell is a janitor supposed to have any idea if he's being screwed or not? This idea works in a perfect world where everyone has perfect information and everyone reads the company's annual report, but in the real world? Bureaucratic nightmare.
@2 - you're right, that should be "sales of over $1bn"
I don't believe a company making 46 million in sales can't afford the 'luxury' of paying employees a 'living'/$15 an hour minimum wage but at the same time the author's point is not entirely lost on me. That kind of a break down makes sense, but a billion in sales and a billion in profit are 2 different things and the author seemed to use them interchangeable. This might work better if we had some legislation to support or not.
One more thought: Company X has a bad year, didn't clear a billion in earnings. Oh shit! Pay cuts for everyone! And if you believe for a second that a company on the bubble wouldn't round down to screw a few poor folk, you've apparently not been paying attention for the last decade or so.
@1 - I don't please poverty. But I do want to be real about how doing the minimum wage increase wrong will very negatively impact some small businesses and some social service providers. I'm still for $15, just want to figure out how to do it right. There's many options.

@6 - you're correct, that should have said sales or gross revenue, not earnings.
Erm, no. Sorry. We get it, you don't want to pay your employees a living wage. You're only acting rationally, if you pay $15/hr you won't be competitive, etc.

Fortunately, we live in a society with a government empowered to structure the rules of the market such that desirable outcomes are achieved while people act rationally within the rules which apply equally to all. Rules like a minimum wage without exceptions and loopholes that would otherwise make it impossible to enforce.

Your framing of this as an opportunity to stick it to big money from out of state (i.e. subsidize humble local operations like yours with statutorily lower labor costs) shows that you do not understand what motivates people on this issue. This isn't about "fuck big business." This is about minimum wage being too damn low to live a healthy life (like, with health care and vegetables for the kids) in a community whose cost of living distorted by some pretty spectacular income inequality and a brutally regressive tax structure.
1. Did you just compare Target's total global sales with the total sales of one local chain? Instead of Targets Seattle numbers with Douglas's Seattle numbers? Question! Mr. Meinert, isn't that "bullshit"?

2. $15/hr with no cutouts is simple as can be.

3. Do low wage workers who work for small businesses get to pay less rent? Does food and childcare cost you less if you work for Dave Meinert?

4. Wait. Do you call what you've been doing "not freaking out"? Just what would it look like if you were to take it up a notch to an actual freakout? You're scaring me, Dave. Why should we care if you consider this an impasse? Do you have any leverage? Polls say no.

Has your side polled this, Dave? (Yes, you have) What do your numbers say? ($15 with no cutouts, in a landslide.)

Why don't you open your books, Mr. Meinert? Do you know nobody believes your claims? Open your books and prove it.

Besides asking thousands of Seattleites to continue to live in poverty and require public assistance, what really sucks about this "small business" cutout is how easy it is for large employers to use paper shell companies and phony headquarters locations to pretend to be a small business. Enforcement becomes a nightmare. Who's going to pay for that enforcement?

Also, can you cite any examples of small business declining after a minimum wage increase in the past? We've raised it many, many times in the past. What evidence is there that small businesses employees should be penalized? Why should tipped employees be penalized? After I-518 passed, employers of tipped workers didn't suffer. Can you explain that, Dave?
Here's how we're going to do it right, Meinert. We're going to pass the initiative, for the whole $15, for everybody in the city, no matter who their employer is, no exceptions, no tip credit, no "total compensation." Then do you know what we're going to do? We're going to let God sort it out. Be sure to tell your buddies.

It seems like a viable option especially since the rallying point for the higher minimum wage was around McDonalds etc. It would be interesting to see what Big Biz would do to fight this on their own without hiding behind small biz.
@7 That seems highly unlikely given that once the Genie's out of the bottle..
@ 9, Did you mean Loopholes like the Labour Unions are asking for themselves?
@10, according to your argument, we should be able to raise the minimum wage to $100 an hour without ill effects.
@12 what part is highly unlikely? The part where a company wouldn't manipulate their earnings to save a few bucks? Or the part where they wouldn't use that as an excuse to immediately revert their minimum wage workforce (even if it's only the janitor) downward? Because both things happen pretty regularly. Add in the incentive of a dual-track minimum wage, and they'll be rampant.
@8 - honestly sounds like "I'm all for $15, just not for me to pay."

The red, do-not-cross line should be $15, no carve-outs, no tip-credit, for everyone. A proposal to have smaller business phase that in over three years was proposed. $1b in sales might be a reasonable line to draw between those who go to $15 right now and those who phase in over three years.

Sound good?
Under your scenario, wouldn't most franchise owners be exempt from the $15 minimum wage? The national McDonald's corporation undoubtedly rakes in billions, but I doubt most of the local individual franchise owners do. I bet most of the fast food restaurants in the city can claim to be owned by franchise owners making less than $1B. And if they own several that add up to more than $1B, it would be child's play to divide the chains up into smaller parts with shell corporations to avoid the $1B threshold.

This sounds like a win for Dave Meinert and a loss for most fast food workers and restaurant workers in the city.

If I was mayor, I'd veto this scheme too.
By the way, did the Stranger have to pay Meinert a freelance fee for this?
@6 - fixed to say : Go to $15 minimum wage next year only for businesses with annual gross revenue over $1 billion.

@16 - this would have to be written in a way where franchises would be covered by this, so McDonald's would have to to $15. The goal is to get all the employees of large corporations covered so that the entire market gets lifted up. And I'm not trying to get out of paying more. This plan would force me to pay some back of house workers more for sure and would be a significant cost.

@ 16
As I recall the DC Measure had controls in it for national chains sharing one identity.
@14 These Businesses have shareholders to answer to and what's more, the wage would be off the gross earnings of the company according to the IRS.
@18 - I get paid by the number of words in the comments. So thanks for asking.
Does anyone really think a rule based on "you must follow this rule if storefront is member of a franchise" would hold up in court ?
@10 please show me an instance where minimum wage was raised 61%. Raising is good. Jumping could be catostophic for small businesses.
It's so sad to see so many people demonizing small businesses that make our great city so vibrant and diverse. It really is a great part of this city's culture and would be a terrible tragedy to endanger them at the cost of an unproven, unrealistic, unsustainable jump of 61% to 15 overnight.
NIMBY. "Great idea, but do it somewhere else that doesn't affect me".
I have an idea- abolish wages altogether. Regardless of occupation and profession- pay people with vouchers based on hours of work. Jeff Bezos and the cook at McD get paid 10 vouchers each for 10 hours of work. Vouchers will have no pre- set value- you can get a hamburger or a 55' TV for one voucher. From everyone according their abilities, to everyone according to their needs. It will work, it will work well, it will level the playing field. That's a sound economic model.
How do I know? Marx said so.
@1 this has always been about big business and their workers not small business and their workers. When was the last time a barista or bartender was seen picketing their work for $15? NEVER because they make more than that now.
@4 why is it that the Unions are going to be exempt? How is that fair or equitable, because they collect millions of their members money to hire big shot lawyers to lobby the City? Unfair!

$15 is a number but honestly business should be giving their people/employees clear paths to higher wages so they cannot just get by but gain real wealth and be able to live happy and productive lives doing what they love to do.
Get off the cross, Dave, the proletariat need the wood.

Yes, we could raise to to $100. The effect would be a drastic reduction in inequality. But going from 9 to 100 that fast would be unprecedented, unlike going to 15, because....


In 1988 we passed I-518 and wages for tipped employees jumped over 80%, because we removed the tip penalty. The very restaurant industry that Meinert is saying needs a special penalty for workers was not harmed by this 80% increase.

The minimum wage has been raised hundreds of times in cities, states and countries around the world. Can anyone cite even one instance of small business being harmed? Even one? Why are we not hearing about all this doom, if it's such a real threat? And not FUD?

Given that $15/hr is in fact a perfectly reasonable level for what a living wage in Seattle ought to be, it's very hard -- without any evidence! -- to believe it is economically unsustainable. How can we possibly imagine an economy functioning where workers are paid less than what they need to live? The difference has to be made up somewhere, in this case by government assistance, unsustainable borrowing, and the destruction of the middle class.

In real dollars the Federal minimum wage was once over $11/hr. Now we're so used to being treated like shit that we think $15 sounds like a king's ransom. A few decades ago these were what ordinary people, teenagers, high school dropouts, everybody, got paid.

Hey, I know! Let's vote! Put a straight, simple $15/hr on the ballot, no penalties. Let's vote up or down on this.
Cthulhu is a retard.

Hey dipshit - you want more money? then go fucking earn it, you loser piece of shit.

Can you show evidence that states that only pay the Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr are more vibrant and diverse than Washington, with the highest wage in the nation? Oregon's wages are nearly as high as Washington's? Is Portland not home to vibrant and diverse small businesses?

This diversity and vibrancy stuff demands evidence. How come everything looks so monotonous and corporate in Nebraska and Iowa and Idaho and Oklahoma? The high minimum wage states should not have so many creative entrepreneurs. Low wage flyover country should be where it's all happening. Yet... no. How come?

In fact, if you look at a map of wages, the opposite seems to be true. Could it be that a strong consumer economy creates a healthy business environment for small businesses with new ideas? That would seem to explain how Seattle and San Francisco and New York and Portland and Boston and Chicago became engines of creativity. While "business friendly" [sic] Pocatello remains fucking Pocatello.

Thanks for sharing. I know you speak for many who oppose the minimum wage increase. That's why I think we need to quit playing this game and get on with the vote. You guys have nothing but anger and seething contempt for labor.

People see the condescension, and the dishonesty. It's why you can't win this in a vote. Your only chance is to manipulate the Mayor and the Council into some kind of whitewashed fake wage increase against the will of the majority.

So thanks for showing your true colors. People like you are going to help end poverty wages in Seattle that much sooner.
@30. Removing a tip credit is not raising minimum wage. And let me explain something right now, David and I are for, FOR, FOR, FOR RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE! All we're asking is that we listen to the concerns of small business who are workers as well. Their jobs are just as important to us. Their employees are just as important to us. So while you're stuck on an arbitrary number of 15, we are trying to get there in a sustainable manner. Raising the minimum wage across the board is not the only solution to the problem we are addressing, which we all know exists. You are fighting us, but we're not the enemy.
If an FTE makes less than $15 they are eligible for state and federal benefits. So, effectively, business isn't paying the real cost of labor, and tax dollars are subsidizing business. I have never heard a cogent argument why tax dollars should subsidize any business, big or small. Does Meinert have an answer for that?
@33 - I'm not sure that's true. Can you provide reference? Either way, I'm for ensuring no one makes less than $15.
Oh. THIS kind of discussion is why it's so tough to have a reasonable communication between reasonable people.

@1 - "Why is it you can continuously open new businesses - seemingly one every couple of years - but at the same time plead poverty when it comes to paying your employees a Living Wage?"

So, I don't blame people for not knowing how business works, but I DO blame people for not ASKING how business works first, before making it obvious that they don't know.

Thusly, let me tell you - when we open new places (I own Liberty, and also the always-soon-to-be-opening Good Citizen), it's not like we reach in our pockets and just pull out the hundreds of thousands to open these businesses that will employ dozens a VERY good wage. We take loans which take years to pay off in order to get these going, so it's when you ask such an understandable question from a place of ignorance, know that we make only ~7%/yr in net income, so if you would take my business for instance (I don't know Dave's financials), for every $1 that I'd raise my employees wages, that's another $24K that I pay out of pocket. And, since I don't make much...just a few bucks more puts me in the red.

See where I'm going with this? Past that, our front of the house compatriots; by the way, make on average of $40+/hr. (w/MW). Not so bad, 'eh? So, you're picking on the wrong people. Our people EARN.

Who you should be picking on is the chain stores. They make so much more money than us, and usually their people don't make as much as our people do...so...maybe point that voice of invective where it should go?

Live & learn, 'eh?

@4 - "Also, given Anna's excellent post yesterday on how tricky enforcement is already..."

Try not to listen to her much. The people who actually know what we are talking about laugh at her. The degree of ignorance illustrated by her was laughable...well, it'd be laughable if she didn't have such a big bully pulpit. So, here's the fact - the FACT is that IT IS NOT "tricky" to enforce MW if we were to see Total Compensation. Not at all - we all have ~90% credit cards, so it's all in our computers. She was so wrong there (and on every other bit of misinformation that she promulgated) that I personally think that she should be fired. Would you want a sports commentator to comment on a sport if they HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE FUCK THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT!? That's her. She has no fucking idea what she's talking about.

"How the hell is a janitor supposed to have any idea if he's being screwed or not?"

It's not difficult - you see, there'll be a place on everyone's check where the contributions towards Total Compensation will be ON THE CHECK. See? If you knew enough to know enough, you'd have asked first. I mean, it's SO EASY. Now you know.

@6 - "I don't believe a company making 46 million in sales can't afford the 'luxury' of paying employees a 'living'/$15 an hour minimum wage"

Well, let's look at that. A company that makes $46mil after all is said and done makes IN TOTAL of $3mil./yr. But, because each restaurant is its own company, it's not like across the board he can pay everyone the same. Some places make more than others, so if you were following this story and learned more about it, you'd know that Tom Douglas has stated that if $15 goes through, he'll probably close four of his restaurants (to my memory), so that's around 200 people out of work. The rest he'd have to raise his costs (minimally compared to David and I), and cut many programs that behoove the employees.

But, again - you'd know that if you asked.

@17 - " By the way, did the Stranger have to pay Meinert a freelance fee for this? "

Wow. This is the level of debate here, 'eh? WOW.

It's a shame that more of you don't take the time to learn about this issue. You know how I know that I'm right? Because I STUDY THIS. I know that I'm right, I know how $15 - or even $12.50 - will cause mass discomfort and closed business and jobless people all over Seattle. I know this because I am a business owner that understands business and who does not succumb to emotional appeals and bias-led propaganda in the place for learned and studied, reasonable discussion.

Come on, folks, if you don't know something, DON'T OPINE. Ask a question and get an answer before you show your ignorance.

@23 is right. The bizarre hostility toward local businesses in this thread is totally fucked up. Meinert and every other locally based merchant in Seattle are operating--and predicated their businesses--upon a set of rules that long preceded them. Y'all act like Meinert wrote those rules himself. His solution needs some additional tinkering, but he sees the forest for the trees, unlike some of you who seem to prefer rhetorical clear cutting.

Our number is arbitrary, but the wage you want to pay is not arbitrary? Meinert wants $12.50. Where's that number come from?

It's been explained again and again where $15/hr comes from. It splits the difference --generously less than a right-down-the-midldle $16.50! -- between real wages from the late 60s, and real productivity today. It's also what you need to live on.

Hey, I know. If you think $12.50 is not "arbitrary", then open your books. Show us that you can do $12.50 but $15 is unpossible. And show us evidence that small businesses have ever been harmed, or employment has declined, after a minimum wage increase. Ever. Ever!

And where are workers supposed to get the rest of what it costs to live on? Welfare?

And we're still waiting to hear how they're going to enforce this complicated two-tier (plus tip penalty) system where everybody is going to try to make themselves look on paper like a "small business", however you define that. By definition, it's going to cost the taxpayer more to enforce all that accounting checking, rather than a simple $15 for everybody.

Please, educate us. Open your books. Meinert won't. Douglas won't. Some have claimed they sort of did somewhere along the line, but where are they? Be the first to open your books. Show us the evidence.

And also, can you show any evidence that a minimum wage increase has caused a decline in employment, or an overall loss of small businesses? You're so positive it's going to cause harm. Show us the historical evidence. You've studied this so it must be right at your fingertips.

Or have you heard this "diversity" argument? Can you educate us on any facts supporting the claim that high wages discourage funky creative new endeavors? Because I don't see as many entrepreneurs in Boise as in Portland. How come?
@37 - I support $15, not $12.50.
@37 my lowest paid employee makes $20. And TD opened his books, you may not have been there. Minimum wage is a social floor which we are not willing to let people fall below, not something people should strive to achieve.

And by "support" you mean "don't want to pay". Nice.

Opened his books where? To whom? Where do we see them? Do go on.

Why is this like pulling teeth?
Wow, so Tom Douglass takes in 4x per store what McDonald's does. Tell me again why he can't afford to pay a living wage?

Also, I'm all for tip credit. I'm also for immediate abolishment of sexist/classist tip system. :)
You are useless if you can't find that. It was in the fucking SLOG!!
"Please, educate us. Open your books. Meinert won't. Douglas won't. Some have claimed they sort of did somewhere along the line, but where are they? Be the first to open your books. Show us the evidence. " #38

Numerous business (mine included) have offered to open their books to the Seattle City Council which, quite honestly, makes me a little uncomfortable. Just as uncomfortable as if we were to ask the people who claimed they couldn't live on $12/hr to open their books. It seems that small business people are put in a position of begging to not be shut down. I'm not sure the city should have be using that particular power position.

Are you on the council or the committee? If so, you have been offered and quite sure you've seen some. Otherwise, it isn't any of your business.

But honestly, you only need to do some math to see what the consequences are. Any reasonable person can see the numbers and know that small business owners just are raking in this extra money to pay a 60% increase.
@41 - no, under the plan here I would have to raise wages or benefits to compete with the large businesses. Or, if we include small businesses and have total compensation - basically counting tips as wage - my costs would go up significantly, either way. But it wouldn't close me down. And the people earning less than $15 would get raises.
I am looking forward to the fast food restaurants having ordering kiosks and outsourced india call center ordering in the drive though.

Um, yeah. So you can't find it either. Let me know, because if I missed it I'd sure like to see it now.

I could even change my mind. I just want to see some facts, and not all this "Egads! Fifteen is balderdash! Such a princely number!"

Where was it on slog? If you really can't find the link, what was the approximate date? The author? Can you hum a few bars of the headline?

Workers' books are open. They look like this.

Here's a nice table. It's not pretty. Even $15 isn't actually enough to get by at 40 hours a week.

I don't really care how comfortable you are or aren't opening your books. I'm just stating the fact that nobody believes the story you and Meinert and these other guys are spinning. You want us to trust you but it's too late to ask for that. Sorry.

So. Either present the facts of your case or lose when this comes up for a vote. That's reality.

It's really just the article about the meeting where he shared his financials.

Google 'Tom Douglas minimum wage debate opens books' you'll find all kinds of stuff.


Really committed to playing this semantic game, are you? OK, have it your way. Good luck with that. Let me know how many people buy it.
"I have never heard a cogent argument why tax dollars should subsidize any business, big or small. "

How about this. I have an employee with six children. I have an employee who is retired working for extra cash. I have some single employees, no kids, etc.

I don't pay them based on their need or their personal choices. I pay them based on the job and how well they do it. Where their need exceeds their ability to earn society picks up.

You aren't subsidizing the employer, you are subsidizing the EMPLOYEE and the business is actually, by creating the job and paying he employee, reducing how much you have to subsidize the individual.

Just another way of looking at it.

And I guess if you want to look at it that way, I guess I can be excused from raising the wage if you aren't subsidizing my employees? I should just raise the wage for the one with six kids to, oh I don't know $100/hr then society won't have to SUBSIDIZE my business?

Using financial averages for the industry as a whole, with line cooks earning around $12.50 an hour, dishwashers $10, 4:1 ratio of front of the house to back, and hourly labor comprising 25-30% of operating costs, it looks like an average restaurant, to cover additional labor costs from the minimum rising to $15, would have to raise prices by...


Are you simply not willing to consider raising your prices by 15%? If not, why not?
So much has been said about restaurants but there are other types of small business here. Perhaps Mr. Meinert isn't thinking much of other industries here. Restaurants do have the ability to raise prices, although they do face the consequences of turning away customers, or customers choosing to buy less, etc.

But retail business doesn't have the option to raise prices by 15%. And keep in mind, that it isn't just the cost of labor. It increases then the cost of supplies, services, etc that the business uses. The point being, it is much more complex than supporters want to deal with.

And once all the prices go up, and the benefits are lost and the taxes go up, what is going to be left in a minimum wage workers paycheck? This isn't the solution to the working poor. It doesn't solve the problem.
If you look at the recent data presented to the City council on Page 9 it states that the living wage in Seattle lands at $10.62 for a single person. For a couple it is $7.45 because they share expenses. On Page 22 & 23 it shows all the cities that have made increases to their minimum wage and NONE of them have a 64% increase the average from all the cities lands at about 33%. Take the existing minimum at 9.19 add the increase of 33% PLUS inflation you still land UNDER $12.50. Yes the minimum wage should be increased but raising it to $15 in 7 months is crazy. Independent small businesses want their communities to thrive to make more money but we also have an understanding of the bottom line and an overnight increase will have an impact. We are worried about the larger impact. A phased in approach gives everyone the opportunity to adjust and move towards sustainable growth.

Yes! Please do give us some ballpark figures for the average hourly wage and average hourly labor percentage of operating cost of whatever retail business you're familiar with!

This stuff makes so much more sense once you have a realistic estimate of how much prices for various goods and services will need to go up.

And incidentally, I've never heard of a retail business that can't raise prices; which sector are you thinking of, specifically?

The short answer to that is that you only have to look around, to Idaho, to North Dakota, to see that "business friendly" places that only pay $7.25/hr are not better off. People making minimum wage at the Pocatello Wal-Mart don't make enough to shop at that Wal-Mart without government assistance to survive.

An even shorter answer is that we know supply side economics was a dismal failure. Supply side is how we got into this mess of desperately low real wages. The answer is to put money in the hands of consumers and get the economy back doing what it should be doing, creating a healthy middle class.

Do you have a link to that presentation? And do you by any chance know who presented that data to the Council?
Retail is limited for multiple reasons. They are competing with On line companies like Amazon. In the case of bookstores you are paying 60% of the listed price for the book. The publishers determine the prices. Add shipping which has doubled due to an increase in gas prices. Take out your rent, cost of your staff, insurance, taxes... Other retail models are not quite as bad off but still not in a great position instead of 60% you are paying 50% but again you are competing with H&M, GAP and major retailers willing to create slave labor outside the U.S. so you can have cheap goods here. Most local retailers are not only directly supporting the local community but also featuring independent designers AND they pay higher wages than mass block stores. There is a big difference between total gross receipts and your actual PROFIT. There is also a big difference between the Walmarts of the world and the businesses that are proposing a sensible plan that would actually help the most people.
J stop dodging all the rubuttals against your points if you're going to debate. And supply side economic theory is based on production and supply, not retail. And I don't feel that using the Idaho/North Dakota model is valid because we are debating HOW to raise the minimum wage.
@58 it was commissioned by the council. Patricia Lee and Dan Eder wrote it up. The File number is 20140321 CS Memo with an overview of the minimum wage. You will also see that Labor Unions backing this are conveniently wanting to be exempt from paying the new minimum wage so they can "negotiate lower wages" on behalf of their members and to secure job retention. Made me think WTF aren't these guys supposed to be on the side of the workers?

Well yes, that's why I'm curious about average wages for hourly employees, and average percentage of total operating cost taken up by hourly labor.

Because with those numbers, you see, you can actually calculate how much local prices would have to go up when local minimum wages are raised. You just can't figure that out at all from cost of goods plus fixed costs.
Two points:

1. Everyone keeps talking about how an increased wage will effect small biz costs as if demand will be static, why? A $15 minimum wage will effect 1/4 of Seattle residents, some quite significantly. Are these noble and visionary business owner job creating heroes not capable of also imagining an increase in sales to balance the numbers rather than the simplistic minded solutions of cutting hours, raising prices, or closing shop??? I mean, I know my family would eat out a bunch more if we got raises!

And 2. @52 "I pay them based on the job and how well they do it". What capital will come to understand one way or another is that a wage must not only reflect the value of the performed task but the value of the human being you are renting. Yes some of us workers are desperate and will work for less out of neccesity in this bs race to the bottom economy, which is why an enforced minimum standard is appropriate - and in our local economy where obscene wealth abounds and influences prices $15/hr is barely adaquate.
Seems like someone might have napped through a few sessions at the Income Inequality Symposium today and then written an article.

What rebuttal? I'm still waiting for Tom Douglas's books. Where are they? Is "a bunch of stuff on google" supposed to be an answer? Come on. Where are they? Or anybody's books.

You're not presenting arguments on how to raise it. Raising it to $15 is easy, and simple. What you're up to is trying to figure out how to pay less than $15/hr. In a town that costs over $16/hr just to live. While making everyone think you're doing something else. Sneaky.

Can I ask again how come none of these businesses has commissioned a poll. You claim your very livelihood is on the line. Seriously? You could be ruined? Well pool your nickles and poll this. (You already did, didn't you? Come on, tell us! It's secret, huh?)
Meinert, it's bad enough that you write stupid articles. Please don't fill the comments section with fixes to what you didn't say correctly the first time, or with responses to commenters.

And if you care only for the good of your employees and society in general, as you so earnestly claim you do over a number of posts and comments, why didn't you act on that feeling BEFORE a $15/hr wage was proposed?

So, this one, then?

The SSS builds “‘bare bones’ family budgets [for each of several different types of households] that detail the minimum amount of income required by families to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.”


For many of the household types, the calculated Living Wage in the SSS is above the current minimum wage and above the proposed $15/hour minimum wage supported by many community organizations. The SSS concludes that a “living wage” in Seattle would vary between $10.62 for a single, full-time worker living alone and $30.41 for a single full-time worker living with two pre-school children.

So if we go with your numbers, I guess we're stipulating that low-wage employees all work full-time or close to it, do not have children, and do not save a single cent of their paychecks?
@65 Take a deep breath. Seriously.

Tom Douglas : http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/vid…

It is not just a matter of the impact on small business but also the impact of an overnight increase. If you look above David already stated that he is in favor of moving to an increase in minimum wage.

Don't you think businesses thought... hmmm let me look at my books how will this impact me? How will it impact my employees? How will it impact my customer base? What things have we already gone through? This is a $5.81 increase per hour. In a year for a full time employee you are looking at an increase in cost of $10K PER employee.

What about the non-profit sector? how are they supposed to adjust? Most groups have to line up grants and funding over a year in advance. We are 4 days shy of April. This proposal if implemented at $15/ hour would go into place January of 2015. How do you propose they come up with the short fall of their funds? What about organizations that are specifically set up to help the poor? How will they adjust in less than 8 months? Aside from the cost of goods/food/rent increase even if it is minor there is a larger impact. It is important to look at the whole picture.

Go fuck yourself
@67 I agree that it is bare bones. Moving from 9.19 to $12.50 would add $6620 in someones pocket per year. If we work towards a slow phase in towards $15 or whatever the number is you still get what is needed but you are taking into consideration allowing time for the greater whole to adjust limiting the impact. I AM IN FAVOR OF A MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE. I am not in favor of a massive overnight increase that would create lay offs or hiring freezes. People are just now finally getting jobs again, just now getting on their feet slowly again.

In a year for a full time employee you are looking at an increase in cost of $10K PER employee.

Well, no, you're not. You're looking at an increase in cost of $10K per employee currently being paid the minimum wage, and there are no businesses I'm aware of that pay all of their employees the minimum wage, not even in high-minimum-wage Washington State.

The restaurant industry probably employs as high a percentage of minimum-wage workers as you'll find, and even in that sector a business will only need to raise prices by 15% to cover the increased hourly labor cost.
@72 there are 2000 hours calculated in a work year.

if they are currently paying minimum wage and it goes to $15
$5.81 increase per hour x 2000 hours if they are working full time = $11620

@42 - "Opened his books where? To whom? Where do we see them? Do go on."

Now, THIS is a good direction for the discussion.

Let's play with hypotheticals...let's say that we DID open our books to you (I will have an available general P/L available within days for people to see that I'm not lying.), and let's say that we were NOT lying...

So, now that you see that we're not lying, that a rise to even $12.50 would cause us to have to raise our prices by 20%, that we really do only make ~7% (if we're really good operators selling a half-decent product at a reasonable price), would you THEN believe us? Would you tomorrow change your mind, join us in asking for a MW rise in price that is reasonable?

What do you think? You spend more time here arguing with everyone about this...but if you found out that there really would be great instability and probable wide-based small business failure due to even $12.50 as MW...would you join us in working to find a reasonable and balanced solution?

Past that, Dave - I have a question for you. You are for $15...I understand that for you and me, we're going to be OK since there probably will be carveouts for us since we're tipped-income businesses who will a Total Compensation consideration.

But, what about the bookstores? What about the pet & art supplies busiensses? The cloting stores? The manufacturers? What about all of them? Even if our businesses will be 'saved' because of Total Compensation (if it goes in that direction), who on the Committee is speaking for all of these businesses? As I work with other small businesses to contribute to find a reasonable, balanced solution to this problem, I'd hate to think that in our selfishness of working for Total Compensation for us, we've abandoned them and their employees to what surely will be their swan song. Tell me that you've got a plan for those non-tip/commissoon-based businesses.

Yes, that calculation is correct for an employee CURRENTLY BEING PAID THE MINIMUM. It is not a correct "PER employee" calculation. It is not a correct average cost increase per employee, not even in the restaurant industry.

We should definitely look at cost increases, and the price increases that must follow.

But we should look at them using sound accounting and real business examples and averages, and not with shouty alarmist nonsense that doesn't come anywhere near describing the effect the proposed increase would have on actual present-day business cost and price structures.
@53, " Are you simply not willing to consider raising your prices by 15%? If not, why not?"

A reasonable question.

The first problem is that your numbers are off. Every small biz that I have spoken with has payroll expenses of more than 30%. Other Costs Of Goods Sold (COGS), such as food & produce, drygoods, etc. is around the same amount. So, already your numbers are under what is reality. BUT! For the sake of argument, let's say that instead of 15%, it's 20% (by what my spreadsheet suggests I'll have to raise my prices).

What'll happen is that the larger businesses or those without as much of a care for quality will be able to limit their rise in prices to between 10-15%. Competition will get ugly, and while restaurants and bars will be able to weather this storm to some degree better than non-tipped/commissioned retail, what happens to the shoe stores, the art & pet supplies stores, the clothing stores - those that simply CANNOT just raise their prices by 10-20% and still compete with the big-box retailers and larger local stores? What about them? Are we now agreeing to abandon those stores? I love my local art store and book stores. I go and buy my clothes at local boutiques and limit my spending online. But, if I knew that all of my prices were rising by no less than 10%? Well...what then?

What then? I can tell you that many will fail. Is that what we just have to relent care for? That these great local stores will fail, the bigger stores will eat them up and we'll lose what really makes our communities wonderful.

That's your plan? That's OK with you?

Assuming you're paying every single one of your employees the minimum wage, an increase to $12.50 would represent a 34% increase in labor cost.

For a 34% increase in labor cost to require a 20% matching increase in prices, minimum-wage labor would need to be 59% of the total operating cost for your business (including fixed costs like rent, insurance, and loan service).

Which is possible, sure. But boy, am I ever interested in seeing your breakdown...

@35 I'm Cool:

Wow. This is the level of debate here, 'eh? WOW.

Obviously I was joking with that, and Meinert's sarcastic response about being paid to comment recognized that. But if you're going to fan yourself over the level of debate, maybe you'd better sit down when you read about Meinert telling Anna Minard to fuck off.


The clothes at boutiques, as I'm sure you're aware, are not available at big-box retailers. Clothing retail has quite a lot of price flexibility, and since every business will have to pay the same new minimum wage, every store will have to raise prices. The difference between a huge retailer and a mom-n-pop shop might be 24% of total operating cost for hourly labor versus 32%. And that difference is only going to result in a price difference of a few percent at most (or possibly no difference at all, if mom-n-pop are already paying their workers a couple dollars per hour more than Big Corporate Store).

For some reason, you don't strike me as the sort of person who would be sensitive to a price increase of 15% for your shoes and coffee grinders, and my sense is that there are quite a lot of Seattle consumers on the more fortunate end of the wealth spectrum in the same boat.

The consumers who are particularly price-sensitive are the ones who don't have a lot of disposable income. And some of those, at least, would suddenly have appreciably more in their pocket after an increase to $15 an hour.

I really do appreciate engagement in the actual microeconomics of the proposed law, despite my snark-- please keep it coming.
@77 - it's not just the payroll that increases, right? Every one of our purveyors will have to increase their prices. So, if my payroll results in a 10%+ across the board increase in cost, and my purveyors ALSO have something just south of that, plus other costs that will rise as a natural result of this MW increase. This means that I'm looking at between 15-20% increase in prices across the board on my menu just to stay even, not even talking about a few % that I'd like to earn in order to buy Baby Bowie something for her 1yr b'day tomorrow.

Each dollar in increased wage costs me ~$20,400/yr., BEFORE the 17% in taxes that businesses have to pay ON TOP of salary...

Yes, it gets expensive to operate a business.

My accountant is whipping something up this week to show that these numbers are real. I'm not afraid to show that I don't make shit already, so my numbers will show that I'm fighting to just stay in business and fighting to have my new bar, Good Citizen (which I'm working on now), be able to exist as a quality establishment.

Keep in mind, y'all - for the food-service industry, the shitty bars/restaurants and expensive bars/restaurants will have an advantage over everyone else. The shitty ones use shitty products to make your drinks & food, and the very expensive ones have some room in their net profit - both with an ability to absorb the rise in cost... Ask operators about the quality of their products. I use good alcohol, so a bar that uses shitty liquor ALREADY has a 20% advantage over me just on the well liquors, where the nicer places can charge $2+ for the same thing because they simply are able to do so. I refuse to use shitty products, my liquor will stay quality, my fish will continue to be the best quality sushi-grade fish available. I won't cut corners. So, that leaves me in quite a quandary...

@77 it is not just simply the actual labor cost. Most businesses operate on less than 10% profit margin.

The increase in payroll means that we will need to adjust for prices yes but also adjust for the cost increase in other areas. If a place is selling burgers (random example) they will need to look at the total cost of providing that burger. That is combination of labor cost and cost of the product being sold. It is only natural to assume that the cost of purchasing the meat / ingredients will also go up. How many people can then spend whatever the new number is and how many more burgers can be sold to get beyond just that break even number?
Every one of our purveyors will have to increase their prices.

Every one of your purveyors is operating and sourcing entirely inside the city of Seattle? This business of yours gets more and more interesting with every post...

And I find it very strange that you seem to resent the need to charge a premium price for the premium product you're proud of. You have competitors that provide an inferior product and charge a lower price? Did I miss something there? Isn't that exactly how the market is supposed to work?
I love the "100/hr" strawman these folks keep throwing around. For the love of fuck, just stick with the topic.

Also, when a single individual works for you and then requires public assistance in order to make you money, its subsidizing your business. Any logical bullshit like, "I don't pay them based on their need or their personal choices", is bullshit when, at the bare minimum of these people's choices (being single), they still are incapable of surviving without public services no longer counts. Sure, hypothetical person with a billion kids (see, I can build a retarded strawman too!) won't be able to survive on $15/hr, but when 10.whateverthefuck can barely sustain A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL, that's called a "problem". And I can assure you, you're still living in a shithole if you're a single person living on 12.50

Also, being for $15 /=/ being for $15 for $1 billion industries. In fact, kinda makes me feel like you're getting millions in revenue. Which, by all means, should allow you to pay your fucking workers $15/hr. <-- Meinert Only, in this case.

"Yes the minimum wage should be increased but raising it to $15 in 7 months is crazy."

Besides Phdolaguteugosug, who the fuck is saying this! There's a plan right now to do it over three years. Why don't you fucking people just let it go and debate it up to 5 years for small businesses! You are the most disingenuous people alive.
@76 You must not have been at the Symposium today. It was very clear that sacrificing small businesses was fine with everyone. In theory, nothing bad will happen, so it's okay. "Businesses close all the time, new ones open up," said one panelist dismissively to a worried owner. Those who can't afford a 60% expense increase deserve to fail. Can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Also, you are a greedy capitalist pig who hates poor people. Your debt doesn't matter, just the debt of your workers. It's alarmist to be concerned about losing your own wage as a working owner. This is actually going to be super good for small business, because their employees will be 60% more loyal and science proves that turnover is expensive.

Also, tipping anyone for anything should be completely abolished in America, starting in Seattle preferably, because according to the panelists it is sexist and racist. (How do you feel about that, bartenders? I actually agree with her, her empirical data was pretty strong on this point...should Seattle be the test case?)

Also, the keynote speaker has a company that makes military drones but he's awesome because he's an ENLIGHTENED billionaire. This was literally his introduction by his best friend the union leader (unions are going to be exempt from this like they are in Seatac, I assume). Hanauer can totally make sweeping generalizations about middle class business owners, because they are like the 1%, just not as evolved as him. Also we aren't friends with Jeff Bezos, maybe Hanauer should get to work on Jeff instead. You know, since he paid $250k or something to defeat the income tax.
@76 - "Clothing retail has quite a lot of price flexibility, and since every business will have to pay the same new minimum wage, every store will have to raise prices."

Unless you know a lot of clothing retail that I don't know who can confirm this, I am going to go out not too far on a limb and say that this is simply not true. While SOME have the ability to have some "price flexibility", the ol' internets have robbed many clothing retail from that competitive, local advantage. So, even if SOME resemble that belief, what about the rest? What about the bookstores? The art supplies? With each example that I raise, I think of my local stores, and I am very concerned about their probability of failure for many. But, perhaps you're right. I sure hope so.

"For some reason, you don't strike me as the sort of person who would be sensitive to a price increase of 15% for your shoes and coffee grinders"

You're incorrect. I surely ain't rich. I will resort to the ol' interwebs for more and more, taking my $ out of Seattle.

"and my sense is that there are quite a lot of Seattle consumers on the more fortunate end of the wealth spectrum in the same boat."

Sure, but what about most of the rest that are on a budget of some kind? What about them? Should I just assume, just hope that if my prices go up by 20%, that the MW'ers will come in to no small degree more and more and join those that you just described in ignoring my price increases and will continue to spend? Well, I surely hope so, as do my 20 employees.

"And some of those, at least, would suddenly have appreciably more in their pocket after an increase to $15 an hour."

Respectfully, that's probably the WORST argument of all of them for why us small-biz owners should not be concerned. At 30 hours a week, a MW'er will have an additional $168.90 to spend. Not a princely sum, for sure, you'd agree. I just can't feel comfort that in some ratio to my increased prices, that they'll be coming in here so much as to balance out this increase with their new spending spree. I mean, their whole world will be 20% more expensive, resulting in their buying power REALLY being only $135 (before taxes). So, let's say now they have an additional $100 in their pocket/week.

Here's the reality - if this goes through without carveouts for my type of business, I'll have to close my daytime coffee/sushi hours. I'll have to end my charitable giving (which I do a lot). I'll have to curtail discounts, possibly including Happy Hour. All of my expenses will be carefully considered for shaving a bit off here and there. Just to survive.

That sucks.

"I really do appreciate engagement in the actual microeconomics of the proposed law"


But that's just it; I'm calculating precisely from the cost that will be affected by the proposed law.

The proposed law will not raise the monthly rent on the lease a business has signed.

It will not raise the interest rate on the loans the business is repaying.

The proposed law will not raise prices of agricultural goods, unless those goods are produced inside the city of Seattle (most aren't even produced in the state).

I'm sure there will be a bit of extra cost from economic multiplier effects, but surely you can see that they will be minuscule compared to the increased labor cost? And that labor cost, by a conservative estimate, can be matched by a 15% increase in prices for an average, financially stable restaurant operation.

I show my math here. If you want to disagree, please do, but could you pretty, pretty please disagree using actual numbers and percentages and calculations, instead of repeating that frightened hand-waving over and over again?
@82 - "Every one of your purveyors is operating and sourcing entirely inside the city of Seattle? This business of yours gets more and more interesting with every post..."

I should clarify - Every one that I have asked. And, I've asked most of them. Even those that have their warehouses outside of Seattle have purveyors THEMSELVES that are located in Seattle, so those prices rise, resulting in... There's a whole chain to this that people forget, the costs that we're talking about are not just for payroll.

"And I find it very strange that you seem to resent the need to charge a premium price for the premium product you're proud of."

No, not at all. I resent that on 15th Ave., I am far enough away from the main market centers that I am unable to charge the same amount that my friends & competitors charge just a half-mile away in the Pike/Pine corridor. I resent that my insistence to provide literally the best product that I can possibly produce has caused me to be in this position. I've resisted dumbing down, cheapening my business for years as my competitors do/did. So, perhaps that's what you're sensing that comes through my ramblings.

"You have competitors that provide an inferior product and charge a lower price? Did I miss something there?"

No. My point is that in this new environment, they will have an additional price competitive advantages, meaning - they'll be able to eat a bit more of the increase in costs than I will, thusly resulting in a great disadvantage to me.

"Isn't that exactly how the market is supposed to work?"

Absolutely. To the victor goes the spoils. Those with a competitive advantage will win...which IS MY WHOLE POINT!! Do you not understand that many of the local businesses already have an almost impossible competitive pressure that will now be finally pushed out of the market. That should not be a difficult reality to consider... Some small business will assuredly fail even at $12.50. How many though? THAT is the question.
Dick Smith rolls in his grave, Meinert.
Okay... Okay...

Compromise plan: $15/hr, straight up for big businesses even if you're apart of a franchise and 5 years for small, LOCAL businesses (let's define this as businesses solely found in Seattle or even Western Wa).

Big business, unless shown to be unsustainable with a $15 mw during debate, will be defined as any individual/company earning a totality of $25 million from all the individual businesses that they own.

For nonprofits (for you, Fnarf, and your terrible idea of what makes good beer) already in existence we'll give them, oh, 8 years to comply.

As for tip credits, they're already unfair as fuck to the consumer. Everyone talks about raising prices. Well, as a citizen who tips well BECAUSE he wants the person who he's serving to live a fulfilled, happy life, a tip credit is really no different than a price increase. I want that tip to mean extra cash for those people, not just to meet their basic hourly wage. I'm not tipping you, Meinert. I'm not going to tip to help YOU pay your workers the bare minimum. I already AM doing that with the current mw. So no tip credits, I would much prefer paying 10% in tip knowing they have a livable wage rather than the 20% I'm currently giving without any reassurance.
If there is some kind of "1bn in sales" kind of cap, what's to stop people from contracting out their labor needs to temp agencies and having only salaried "management"?
It's easy to make sure the tip goes to the employee. It's called cash. Meinert will never even know it existed, just like the government. Problem solved!
@86 - "The proposed law will not raise the monthly rent on the lease a business has signed."

True, but the triple-net that we all pay will increase. Not by much, but expenses are expenses. That's not really anyone's concern, anyway - so why even bring it up?

"The proposed law will not raise prices of agricultural goods, unless those goods are produced inside the city of Seattle (most aren't even produced in the state)."

That's not AT ALL true. There's a whole supply chain to each one of my purveyors that goes through Seattle. Even if their warehouses are not in Seattle, they THEMSELVES have purveyors that are based in Seattle, and this will result in THEIR costs rising, and you better be damn sure that they will pass along that rise in pricing to us.

"I'm sure there will be a bit of extra cost from economic multiplier effects, but surely you can see that they will be minuscule compared to the increased labor cost?"

No, my assumptions have these costs at no less than 10%, perhaps even double that, depending on what really happens.

Also keep in mind that it's not just the current MW'ers that will get raises. Many of those people NEAR $15 will have to get raises to account for their increased value to the company compared to those that are currently at MW. So, not only will the MW'ers go up, but so will many other employees, in all probability. That part I can't possibly guess for the correct amount, but it won't be unsubstantial, that I feel confident in saying.

As for your request for real numbers, I want to correct a few of yours:

"In a typical small restaurant, hourly/non-management labor is usually around 20-25% of total operating expense "

No. Closer to or more than 30. Of all of the small businesses that I have queried, not ONE was less than 30, and there were large and small businesses amongst them. So...your bias is leading you astray on that one. So, when you speculate on "about 15%" as the rise in prices, you've left out so much in unaccounted risen expenditures that I've illustrated above.

Again, I hope to have more specific numbers tomorrow which will cause you to have to reconsider your whole theory.

But, hey - what's a 10-20% rise in cost? What's the big deal? I'm sure that the working poor will be able to absorb that no problemo.
@84 "You must not have been at the Symposium today."

Yay! I didn't know a symposium was representative of the movement as a whole or the final product! You've just found the loophole of democracy! No need for debate and eventual compromise between differing peoples, its this group who will of COURSE have the final say, the final say!

No, this is one view on the issue. There are a multitude of views which will affect the final product. Hopefully, with my personal view, it will look like something from my previous post. But will it in the reality of, "how laws are made"? Not likely.

"the keynote speaker has a company that makes military drones but he's awesome because he's an ENLIGHTENED billionaire"

Strong fallacy thar. Actually, no. You're entire post was fallacy.

@85 "Here's the reality - if this goes through without carveouts for my type of business, I'll have to close my daytime coffee/sushi hours. I'll have to end my charitable giving (which I do a lot). I'll have to curtail discounts, possibly including Happy Hour. All of my expenses will be carefully considered for shaving a bit off here and there. Just to survive. "

I do commend you for not sounding so much like the shitbag Meinert. That said, what you're saying is the very reason for this debate. We should make a few caveats for certain businesses, particularly when they mean a lot to the local economy. That being said, there needs to be rules set in place where you WILL pay $15 an hour. How/when that occurs is all up to us. The thing is, the $15Now crowd does have the upper hand in being potentially capable of increasing it for all businesses at once. But Sawant just said she is down for a plan that occurs over 3 years. You need to take that in good faith and come up with a plan that isn't less than $15 but does so in a safe manner. All, while, not being such a giant douche/POS/fuckwit like Meinert (really, he's such a shitbag).

@87 I assume you already have a fairly expensive restaurant/business/whatever. Its unlikely that people are coming to you for cheap shit already. I don't go to the dive bar to save money and if prices are raised I still won't go to a sub-par bar. So I have to question this logic entirely. Particularly seeing as how Seattle is locally minded.

Really, the cheap places are already occupied by folks who have low wages. Those with higher wages are certainly going to places that have higher quality/more expensive products, particularly if the service is good. If prices change suddenly, I doubt that these people with money to spend (or just prefer quality products) are suddenly going to end up in the sports bar down the street. So its doubtful that the people with high wages aren't going to stop going to your place because a 20/30% price increase.

This all just sounds way too disingenuous.
Meinert welcomed Jared Allen to the Seahawks the other day. He's wrong about everything.
I'm loving all the people who are sucking off "small, vibrant business" and believe they deserve the ability to pay shit wages.

ANY business that pays shit wages, large or small, corporate or independent is nothing more than a fucking leach on our community and our economy.
Reading through these hateful comments is really making me reevaluate where I live. These business owners are all trying to find a sustainable way to raise minimum wage yet they're being called shit bag, pos, douche, fucking leach. Seriously?! You know why you don't believe anyone about their numbers? It's because you're a dishonest person yourself. It's so scary to think the children name callers that you are, are going to affect how this city operates. You can't even use your words but you want to tell the city how to run things. These are people lives we're talking about. Both sides of the argument. You would think people would take it seriously. Sad.
@74 - Thank you for bringing up other businesses. It does seems, and I've been watching the meeting that we are getting bogged down in the restaurant industry and I feel for the industry. I wouldn't touch the restaurant business with a ten foot pole, terribly challenging. But there are other businesses.

@56 - You've never heard of a retail business that can't raise prices? Hmm... I'm not sure where to start with that. Perhaps you have heard of competition? Perhaps you have heard of one Amazon.com where they lower their prices because instead of having to make a profit, they are funded by investors.

Even locally Target is going to have a hard time (not that I'm crying a river for them) covering this increase in higher prices. We are not on an island. If prices had to go up 10-20% then savvy customers would go to Target online. Of course then Target online could add a Seattle surcharge, but then people wouldn't shop there.

In short, prices will increase to some extent where they can but retail will not be able to cover these costs in the same way that the service industry can.

I am amazed that Dave Meinert's solution involves him not having to pay $15 an hour to his employees.

Never would have expected that.

Seeing as Meinert tells people to fuck off online, he can probably take being called a shitbag.
@ 76 "Clothing retail has quite a lot of price flexibility, and since every business will have to pay the same new minimum wage, every store will have to raise prices."

Not at the small retailer level. We don't make the clothes. We buy the clothes at a price determined by the maker. There are also typically middle men involved in the transaction, called reps. It is an entirely different market than a big box store. And yes, while you can't buy the same clothes at a big box store, you can meet your needs for clothing. If other prices are rising you have to cut somewhere.
If you have to pay your employees a poverty wage to turn a profit, you don't have a viable small business.