News Nov 27, 2013 at 4:00 am

Seattle Is About to Become the Battleground in the National Struggle for a $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage


Man, if you thought the GMO labeling issue was a brutal fight...

Good on you Seattle, I really hope this passes. The wage gap in our nation is so bad it has gone beyond an economic issue, and is now a social justice issue. Minimum wage should be at least $12 nationwide.

That silence you'll hear will be the sound of entry level and low-tech jobs that have moved outside the city forever.
If minimum wage becomes $15, what makes you think jobs that already pay $15 or so will pay more? Nothing? Then you've just turned a bunch of above-minimum-wage jobs into minimum-wage jobs.

This is addressing the symptom, not the problem.
I'm all for it. Send all the $15/hour jobs outside of the city, keep all the skilled labor inside.
I hope it passes overwhelmingly because it will provide a memorable economics lesson.
I too support the $15/hour wage in Seattle. The suburbs around our city could use the jobs. As for us here in town, why, we'll just...we'll just...we'll...uh....

M...maybe people will hire us because we're pretty?


@5 Yes, it will be a memorable economics lesson. But maybe not in the way you imagine.
Eh, let me know when the legal challenges in Sea-Tac are settled. Should be several years from now.
Devil is in the details of the exemption(s). If the law/ initiative doesn't exempt small businesses, the counter-mobilization would be stiff and voters would be likely to reject it. If it mainly goes after big businesses, the impact would be lessened, but easier to sustain and to serve as an important breakthrough in a nationwide battle. But the exemption would have to be well-tailored to prevent a sellout: include franchises and subcontractors, figure out what is and is not considered an in-city job, etc.

Which raises another question: would Sawant settle for ANY compromise legislation?
@2 is correct. Every $1/hr increase in payroll equals an additional $1,080 in costs. So a professional service firm with ten $12/hr clerks and receptionists would suddenly have to outlay an additional $32,000 a year in payroll. Probably cost them half as much to move the office to Shoreline or Tukwila.

All those counter workers at Subway will enjoy their $15/hr briefly, because the store will quickly close for lack of business.

Nothing will be solved by artificially creating an economic high pressure front within the city limits.
I work as a residential counselor for a non-profit housing agency in Seattle. I have ten years of experience working with the homeless and mentally ill. I make $13.40/hr. I have my bachelor's degree. My co-worker has her masters degree in social work and makes $15/hr.

SO. You're telling me that I could quit my job, go flip burgers at the airport and make more money?

This is ludicrous.

Gee. I don't know. Would Sawant accept any compromise? ANY?


I don't know. I guess we need to ask her another FIVE THOUSAND TIMES. And after she has answered the same question the same way 5,001 times, maybe we can get it through our heads that the answer is YES. Yes, Sawant intends to, for the 5,000th time, to start from a very high negotiating position, and then, if necessary, accept comprise.

But (for the 5,000th time) Sawant has decided to not start from a lowball position. Her plan is not a secret. Her plan is public. We know because she has told us her plan. Five. Thousand. Times.

Now I expect to read tomorrow in both the PI and the Times, "Will Sawant compromise????? Will she????"

Could be the baseless accusation that she's intractable is just a stratagem to discredit her?
I always wonder why cost of labor is treated as such a magical fetish that will supposedly drive employers out. A city like Seattle has many categories of overhead that are higher -- often much higher -- than the suburbs. Or rural states like Idaho. Real estate, for example.

Why don't all the employers leave and buy cheap office space in Idaho or Wyoming? Why do they pay the high costs for space in Seattle? Or Manhattan, for that matter? Or Tokyo?

How come they'd all flee a high minimum wage, when they don't flee high costs of other things? The answer is that you have to be here to create wealth. The wealth of our civilization is created in cities like Seattle and New York and Tokyo. Not bum fuck rural cheapskate "business friendly" places.

Anybody who wants to move their business out of the city into low-cost, no-cost backwards hillbilly land is free to do so. They were free to do that last year too. They've always been free to do that.

The whole silly theory is that sure, sure before all these high costs of the city were worth paying in order to be at the center of commerce and creativity. But NOW, well, this minimum wage is just exactly the straw that broke the camel's back! And you know this how? You don't know it.

You have no fucking idea what the "correct" minimum wage is. We do know that you guys were proven wrong when all your other trickle down, supply side theories were tried. So why should we listen now?

All we're doing is raising it back up to the approximate purchasing power we saw 40 years ago, back when we had a healthy middle class. The avalanche we're starting isn't business falling away from our economy. It will be the rest of the country falling in line to bring the minimum wage back up to where it once was, in real dollars.
@11 What I'm telling you is that you could quit your job and get a job waiting tables that will pay more than you make now.
The minimum wage in Australia is $16. Australia has a lower unemployment rate than the USA. And if it really matters to you a Big Mac in Australia costs the same as a Big Mac in the USA.

There are exemptions from the $16/hr rate such as apprentices, trainees and underage workers. For instance a 16 yr old in the workforce has a minimum wage of A$7.74. No doubt any "$15/hr min wage" in the USA would have similar exemptions.

We live in a consumer economy. If people have more money they will spend it.The people who argue against changing the minimum wage to a living wage are the same people who think we should go back to the gold standard.
@15 I'm all in favor of raising the minimum wage nationally (or better yet, eliminating the minimum wage entirely and implementing a basic income guarantee), but to do so in one municipality alone is only guaranteeing that H. Ross Perot's infamous "giant sucking sound" hits Seattle like a ton of bricks.

I don't know why Ms. Sawant and her followers seem to be of the assumption that all of those office towers are full of people earning $50k+.
@16: Seattle (and WA state) already have a min wage ~26% higher than the federal mandated minimum. Yet the unemployment rate in Seattle decreased to 4.7% in October. This is substantially lower than the national the "experiment" is already underway.

We have hard data that shows a significantly higher min wage has not prevented the city from having an unemployment rate much better than the national average.
@11 Yes you could. Or you could go wait tables at a busy restaurant and make double or triple what you're making now. Not every high paying job requires a degree, many of them just require hard work.
@13: "you have to be here to create wealth. The wealth of our civilization is created in cities like Seattle and New York and Tokyo. Not bum fuck rural cheapskate 'business friendly' places."

Ha ha ha! Ever heard of "outsourcing"? It's the phenomenon whereby companies export their operations to China and India to reduce costs. Think it can't happen here? Go ask anyone from Detroit.
People forget that the working poor & lower middle class tend to inject their earnings directly back into the economy, unlike the wealthy who hoard their money. If people make more, then they spend more and the overall economy grows and prospers.
@11, what's ludicrous is not a fast food worker making @15/hr but that you are making so little money.

The solution is not to slam fast food workers (some of whom are in your work category who were laid off because their emloyers lost grants), but to make the whole salary system more equitable so everyone is given a decent wage.
@16, do you really think that all the fast-food joints are going to leave Seattle over an estimated $2/hr raise over what most of their workers make now? Seattle has 58 square miles; god knows how many McD's/Tacobells cover that area, which makes for a lot of money being raked in, and they're not going to flounce out of town for any reason.
@21 Apparently Mr. Werner thinks that the wealthy store their money in vaults, like Scrooge McDuck's money bin. I believe this is not the case.
Seattle will be the new Detroit.


And if Seattle doesn't become the new Detroit, you will hang your head in shame, realize how wrong you've been -- about so many, many things -- and shut up forever, never showing your face (or insecure-about-your-small-penis gun collection) again.

Of course everything you predicted about Kshama Sawant turned out to be wrong. So maybe being wrong again and again and again teaches you nothing.

But do go on, Guy Who Keeps Getting It Wrong. Do tell us all your predictions for what will next befall us if we don't adopt the wise social and economic policies of motherfucking Wyoming.
"A recent article by Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect echoes this sentiment: “The extinction of a large and vibrant American middle class isn’t ordained by the laws of either economics or physics. Many of the impediments to creating anew a broadly prosperous America are ultimately political creations that are susceptible to political remedy.” Blaming technology is an excuse to abdicate responsibility. Calling for more education and upward mobility, while noble, is useless when wages are falling for college graduates and will still leave many workers behind. Social mobility is good, but it shouldn’t supplant the goal of reducing inequality (and it’s unlikely that high levels of upward mobility can co-exist with rampant inequality). "

Go read the article.…
“unlike the wealthy who hoard their money”

That’s right, under their mattresses or at the bank with a post-it on it that reads “some rich guy’s money, don’t touch!”. When I inherited $800k of my father’s dough, I buried it in the garden.
Phrase of the Decade :

Salaried service worker.
Next up, start requiring your $400/week salaried workers to wear three-piece suits to work.

Then you can make a server's wage, but no one will tip.

Then you can have starving, shit covered people everywhere.

$15 an hour is a common starting hourly wage for non-professional support staff in law firms in addition to other professional services (engineering, architecture, finance).

The catch is: these places generally won't look at your application unless you have a Bachelor's degree.
$15 an hour is a common wage for non-professional support staff in professional services firms: law, engineering, finance, architecture.

The catch is: you must have a Bachelor's even get an interview. That pretty receptionist at BigLaw? Bachelor's degree in history. Legal courier? Bachelor's degree in philosophy. The ONLY people working in BigLaw that don't have degrees are the janitors...and I wouldn't bet the farm I'm 100% correct on that.

So you high school grads and those who took a few CC courses and dropped out: by all means, vote for a $15 minimum wage. I don't think businesses will suddenly fold. I don't think they will move from Seattle.

But they will, very quietly, without fanfare, simply raise the requirements for those jobs. There is NOTHING to stop them that I can think of. Given how many people with degrees are already employed in low skill jobs...the trend is already there. This will just accelerate it.

And when HS grads and others are shut out of these entry level jobs - THEN what is the solution?
I would love to see this $15 per hour minimum wage measure pass BUT only if it carries a "tuition" requirement... Meaning I didn't want to work a minimum wage job making $7 an hour all my life (minimum at the time I went to school) so I went to school to better myself and I incurred a $12,000 bill for my education at the technical school that I chose which gave me a career that pays just over $15 an hour, I obviously didn't have $12,000 to hand them in cash so I did like EVERY other student and I took a student loan. 5% interest and 10 years later I just finished paying off my loans which had approximately a $100 a month repayment plan. I will vote YES on this measure ONLY if the minimum wage increase recipients are hit with the same terms.... a set $ amount that will be their "schooling fees" and have that compounded by a fair interest rate so that the playing field is even for everyone!
Always we hear how an increase in the minimum wage is a bad thing, and dire predictions of disastrous consequences. But the opposite happens: nothing but good things come from higher wages. People who make more than minimum get raises too, businesses have more customers and and hiring goes up. It's good public policy. Look it up.
@11 Is there a tone of jealousy that I detect in your post?

It stands to reason that if the minimum wage were to rise then the wages of others such as yourself would have to rise as well. Rising tide raising all ships and so forth.

Given you area of employment I would ask how many of your clients could find housing if they were to get jobs 'flipping burgers'?

Except Washington already has a 27% higher minimum wage that the Federal minimum. How come our unemployment is so low? How come our non-college grads aren't fleeing to Nebraska and Wyoming for jobs? Or MICHIGAN? Hello? Seems like our friends in Detroit ought to bring their minimum wage up to at least $9.19/hr, like here in Washington, if they want our low unemployment. If they want their less educated workers to have it as good as in Washington.

Nice theory though. What you'd need is for all of the states with a high minimum to have an unemployment problem. Or for those states to have extraneous education requirements for menial jobs compared to the lower wage states. But it's not so.

And back then the Federal minimum was, in real dollars, close to $11/hour, the nation had no such problems either. Your fears are baseless.
#35 - Anyone willing to rent a room.
I spend the better part of the past four years living off of part-time ~9/hr wages.

As in, 16-25 hours, most weeks.

I'd even make a six-pack in tips most nights!

I didn't pay a monthly phone bill.

I bought a bus pass. I did have to steal a dollar one night. I put it back.

I -did not need a dollar of food assistance-

Now I have multiple years of workplace experience when anyone else who took the conventional path is graduating.

The difference between those who know how to get by in the world and those who don't?

I just said it.

I hope your mommy and your daddies drop bombs on you.

You have to fuck to evolve. Heterosexually.
Darwin 1, Stranger 0.

DNA tests are valid.
Science 2, Stranger 0.

Internment camps, here we come!
Oh, you've never worked a real job in your life and have absolutely no idea who and what you are representing?
Drooling ingrate, have $15 dollars an hour.

Go buy guns and smoke some sherm.

Slap some bitches.

Go get yourself offed by the cops.

It's what WE have dreamt of!
At the brewpub I own, I currently paid my employees between 11-14 an hour plus tips. Which generally adds about 15 an hour. I wonder if that'll be taken in account.
I honestly would prefer to do away with tipping and pay 20 an hours. That might seem like a lot for a service job. But we're really busy and my employees bust their ass and do an amazing job.
As a pub, I honestly think most of our customers would see a pay increase and that could very easily lead to more sales.
It's a tough one. But the best advice I've been given as a business owner is 'if your business model relies on a static data set, you'll fail'.
Seattle would survive something so drastic. It'd be interesting to see how it affects the burbs and Tacoma.
Why not county wide instead of just the city?
Basic math means that this will pass in Seattle and similar increases will pass nationwide.

US minimum wage: $7.25 X 40 hours = $290 week X 52 = $15,080 year

WA minimum wage: $9.19 X 40 hours = 367.60 week X 52 = $19,115 year

and that of course is if you never get sick and never take a day off in a year.

(try living anywhere in America for that amount, at the best your scraping by and not saving any money. At the worst you're on food stamps and living in your car or at a shelter)

The minimum wage should be replaced by a living wage. It's time has finally come (it should have always been the case but it took the economic downturn of 2008 for it to finally happen, but here it is just the same).

If you are willing to work 40 hours a week you should not be in poverty, you should at the least have shelter, have food in your belly and clothes on your back. You should also be able to save some $ to help send yourself or your kids to college, so that you can crawl your way out of poverty.

But that is not how it is in America. Most people who work at minimum wage jobs have more than one job and often work more than 40 hours a week.

This is unsustainable in the long haul.
If you raise the cost of labor, you get less labor (fewer jobs, fewer employers,). If you raise the cost of anything, you get less of it.

I am opposed to any kind of minimum wage law, even at the current level, because it discourages employers from hiring more people. And ObamaCare discourages them from making those jobs full-time.

I am opposed to any kind of minimum wage law, even at the current level, because it discourages employers from hiring more people.

Do you want to create incentives for employers to hire fewer people, and to convert full-time jobs to part-time? Then bring on higher minimum wage, Obamacare, and all the rest of it.
What raising the minimum wage to a living wage across the country will do:

1) helps stimulate the economy

increases spending by those at the bottom -- on clothes, food, other items, eating out

2) helps secure Social Security for a longer time period

higher wages means more $ going into Social Security trust fund

3) helps local, sate and federal government

higher wages means higher tax revenue

4) cuts down our massive personal debt

people can pay off their student loans quicker, other loans; keeps people from going bankrupt or defaulting on loans

5) saves tax $$$$$$$

people can get off food stamps; less crime, less need for jails; less kids on school lunch programs

6) CREATES jobs

higher wages DO NOT kill jobs, they create jobs

If I'm working two jobs just to get by then I'm taking two jobs off the "market"; if I can instead do better with just one job then I can quit my other job and someone else can get hired doing it.

7) helps protect the family; helps protect kids

higher wages means that less kids are home by themselves; parents can spend more time with their children; children don't go to school hungry


You are very wrong, and most economists disagree with you.

Why don't you voluntarily cut your own wages since you think that would some how miraculously create more jobs?………

I love it: Seattle employers are happy to pay $9.19 per hour, 27% more than most other states, but at $15, they'll all go to China. By what formula did you arrive at that magic number?

Because I can tell you where $15/hr comes from: it puts us back where we were in the late 60s an early 70s, when we had a real middle class.

And then of course we have the problem of how you're going to outsource all the minimum wage service jobs to China. Am I supposed to fly to China for a hair cut? And why now? Why didn't they all outsource last year? Perhaps because there's no point?

And if you're going to keep bringing up Detroit, I'm going to keep bringing up that Michigan's minimum wage is far lower than Washington's. You're backasswards if you try to pretend that a high minimum wage is what put Detroit in dire employment straits. The evidence is that our higher minimum wage is what differentiates us from them, and the last thing we want to do is regress to the policies that put them in their hole.
I wonder if the small indy restaurants on the ave could absorb such costs. Many fold within months as is. I have no idea what their profit margins are. I find it impossible to vote to nearly double a small businesses labor outlays with no idea of the actual accounting.
@50: That's a lot of homework you gave me there with those three links. I have started reading it. With that said:

The minimum wage law is already controversial as it is (let alone an increase of it to $15/hour). This controversy breaks down along ideological lines: liberals are mostly for minimum wage laws, conservatives are mostly against them. Yes, there are many studies about the effects of the minimum wage, but there is no consensus among economists about those effects: instead, there is division among them, according to ideological persuasion (just like with the rest of us). There are influential conservative economists who have rejected the concept of minimum wage, such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Dom Armentano, and others. Their arguments make sense to me, as a conservative, but they won't make sense to you, as a liberal.

If this was purely about economics, in the sense of a pure science of numbers, then it would have nothing to do with opinion or ideology. But economics is not a science of pure numbers, and the nature of this subject matter in particular overlaps substantially with politics and ideology. That is why is there is no consensus among economists on this. Do "most" economists support minimum wage laws? If a majority do, wouldn't it be interesting to find out how many of them are of the liberal persuasion? Regardless, a "majority" does not mean consensus, and if there is no consensus (there is not), then the minimum wage controversy is not one of those problems where the solution is "self-evident", or a "no-brainer" or "just common sense", or any such thing. Here is Milton Friedman's view on the minimum wage:…
Those who have reflexively come out here against making Seattle's minimum wage a more livable wage either are not willing to take time to understand the history of minimum wage hikes upon economies or are just too damn lazy to do anything but lap up the nonsense propaganda of the 1%.

Remember this, one of the arguments against abolishing slavery in this country is that it would make our exports uncompetitive. How'd that go?
@5 "Yes, it will be a memorable economics lesson. But maybe not in the way you imagine."

What I imagine is that ignoring the effect of a mandated minimum wage on marginal employment is like ignoring gravity in airplane design.
@55 Homple on December 1, 2013 at 12:51 PM,

How does one ignore gravity in airplane design?
Or if you prefer, how does one account for gravity in airplane design?
Y'all are pussies. Why aren't you pushing for a $40 minimum wage?

Lack of historical precedent, that's why.
@60 I say we just make it $100 an hour and then remove all government expect for the one agency that makes sure people get paid $100 an hour.
@57 One accounts for gravity in aircraft design by noting the weight of the aircraft and adjusting for the necessary consequences thereof things like power requirements, wing loading, lift characterics vs airspeed... that sort of thing.

You can't wish away the effects of gravity and you can't wish away the effects on marginal employment of large step changes in the mandated minimum wage.
@60 @61

Stop pretending this number got pulled from thin air. You can keep bleating the same thing, but you can't make it true.

Australia's minimum wage is AUD 16.37, almost USD 15. During the recent historical peak in real wages and health of the US middle class was when the US minimum wage was $11/hr and Washington's minimum is 20 to 30% above that.

Given that we might have to settle for something less than the initial goal, starting with a proposal of $15 makes sense.

You guys are sputtering all these numbers pulled out of your ass because you have no reasonable argument for what the minimum wage ought to be, and you have no evidence to support the notion that a high minimum wage hurts economies. The evidence shows the people are better off.

It's good for business, but bad for the 1% is all.
The will of voters can't change the laws of economics. Arbitrarily raising the minimum wage--not to be confused with a living wage--doesn't take into account what a salary is based on in the first place: supply and demand for a given product or service, the labor pool available, the experience and/or education necessary to perform a given job, etc. If merely raising the minimum wage was such a great solution, why not simply increase the minimum wage even more? The answer to that question is obvious, but why let logic get in the way of doing something that feels good?
Will you still be expected to tip your waiter if they make 15/hr? I thought the whole point of tipping was to subsidize the waiters cheap employer.
Compromise with the parasitical clASS?Fuck no!They've been living high on our hogs for ages:this is Class-fucking-War!!! -- ,
@65:Read Marx and Kropotkin,you n00b! (and the Iron Law of Wages is not falsifiable!).If the federal minimum wage had been pegged to the cost of living,then it'd be more than sixteen dollars per hour.
Whoever can't survive on forty grand per year is high-maintenance/"inferior":so if you beLIEve that humans are subject to the so-called "Law of the Jungle" are hypocrites by futilely attempting to justify six,seven,eight-figure annual incomes for your spoiled-brat asses!

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