Total Compensation Is a Deceptive System That Would Effectively Gut a $15 Minimum Wage

Comments

1
So, so many interesting errors, omissions and issues of logic in this post.

"With such momentum, most business owners no longer dare to openly oppose it."

It's true. The amount of manipulation of fact has caused a level of vitriol & heaped abuse on any business that has dared try to instill some logic & reason into this debate. Yes, "most business owners" are afraid of the consequences, but many ARE speaking up and are not afraid to be out & proud with their defense of Seattle's small businesses. Groups like Forward Seattle and others are leaderless business groups that are fighting like hell to create an environment where nonsense like what was written above can be viewed with the suspicious that it deserves.

"As Dominic Holden wrote in The Stranger, "Once you factor in retirement ..., gauging the value of the benefit becomes almost impossible."

Yes, he wrote that, but that does not mean that it's true. Simply - it is not. As David Meinert wrote in his accompanying piece, "Enforcement is key. We need harsh punishments for any business that doesn't pay $15...and we should ... form an Office of Labor Standards to ensure this and other local labor laws are enforced." Wow. Look at that, a simple, reasonable suggestion. How in the world did the 15 Now people not think of such a simple solution!? I mean...an enforcement arm!? Crazy!

Then there's the fear-mongering & doubt creation, "Given the considerable sleight of hand involved, how could you possibly protect workers from being cheated out of their wages?" Puuuuleze. Already there are controls & constraints that are very successfully enforced to our businesses. This is just nonsense and shows that AGAIN these people find a problem without looking to see if there's ever been a solution. (HINT: There has.)

"When I was a waitress in Virginia,..."

Jess...that's not relevant. I mean, that whole paragraph and the preceding one had NOTHING TO DO with what is going on here.

Seriously. If this is your argument, please do try again. It made no sense and was not at all a compelling reasoning.

FACTS: There are ALREADY successful enforcement statutes to make sure that people are paid what they're supposed to be paid and that tips are counted as part of one's wages & income. Simple ignorant fear-mongering wont' chance that. Total Compensation will work, and it will leave a tip/commission-based business with a chance of surviving. That said - what about the other local small businesses that will have to figure out how to compete without any kind of carveouts such as the ones that tip/commission-based business will get? Jess, do you even CARE what happens to them?

This is a serious issue which needs serious contemplation & discussion. This opinion piece is neither serious nor relevant.

Want to discuss how to help Seattle's workers earn more money? Yes, let's have that discussion, but let's not pretend that wage increases occur in a bubble without any consideration for the EFFECTS of such a wage increase.

2
So, so many interesting errors, omissions and issues of logic in this post.

"With such momentum, most business owners no longer dare to openly oppose it."

It's true. The amount of manipulation of fact has caused a level of vitriol & heaped abuse on any business that has dared try to instill some logic & reason into this debate. Yes, "most business owners" are afraid of the consequences, but many ARE speaking up and are not afraid to be out & proud with their defense of Seattle's small businesses. Groups like Forward Seattle and others are leaderless business groups that are fighting like hell to create an environment where nonsense like what was written above can be viewed with the suspicious that it deserves.

"As Dominic Holden wrote in The Stranger, "Once you factor in retirement ..., gauging the value of the benefit becomes almost impossible."

Yes, he wrote that, but that does not mean that it's true. Simply - it is not. As David Meinert wrote in his accompanying piece, "Enforcement is key. We need harsh punishments for any business that doesn't pay $15...and we should ... form an Office of Labor Standards to ensure this and other local labor laws are enforced." Wow. Look at that, a simple, reasonable suggestion. How in the world did the 15 Now people not think of such a simple solution!? I mean...an enforcement arm!? Crazy!

Then there's the fear-mongering & doubt creation, "Given the considerable sleight of hand involved, how could you possibly protect workers from being cheated out of their wages?" Puuuuleze. Already there are controls & constraints that are very successfully enforced to our businesses. This is just nonsense and shows that AGAIN these people find a problem without looking to see if there's ever been a solution. (HINT: There has.)

"When I was a waitress in Virginia,..."

Jess...that's not relevant. I mean, that whole paragraph and the preceding one had NOTHING TO DO with what is going on here.

Seriously. If this is your argument, please do try again. It made no sense and was not at all a compelling reasoning.

FACTS: There are ALREADY successful enforcement statutes to make sure that people are paid what they're supposed to be paid and that tips are counted as part of one's wages & income. Simple ignorant fear-mongering won't change that. Total Compensation will work, and it will leave a tip/commission-based business with a chance of surviving. That said - what about the other local small businesses that will have to figure out how to compete without any kind of carveouts such as the ones that tip/commission-based business will get? Jess, do you even CARE what happens to them?

This is a serious issue which needs serious contemplation & discussion. This opinion piece is neither serious nor relevant.

Want to discuss how to help Seattle's workers earn more money? Yes, let's have that discussion, but let's not pretend that wage increases occur in a bubble without any consideration for the EFFECTS of such a wage increase.

3
@1: "Leaderless business groups". As if it's better that corporations that fuck over workers are more horizontal in the campaigns.
4
"Total compensation attempts to do nothing less than redefine the meaning of an hourly minimum wage" But this is EXACTLY what Labour Unions Do Already! And who has given themselves the only cut-out in the proposal? The Unions! Why? Because they consider benefits such as employee meals, retirement and health care when negotiating...TOTAL COMPENSATION.
Considering the author's question "how do you enforce it"? Simple, a part of this should be an establishment of an agency within the city to do so. This is working in other cities and would also address the other issues mentioned later such as the wage theft cited here.
I have read that over 80% of MW jobs locally are with huge corporate companies.This isn't about shorting people working at McCorperate Jobs , it's about allowing people who are earning a good living working for Seattle independent Businesses who are being lumped in to this the ability to maintain their situations and the Small Businesses to be able to compete with these behemoths .
5
Fortunately this is not Virginia, it's Seattle with one if the highest minimum wages in the country and the good news it's gonna go up. But to say that the gratuities I take home and report to the IRS are somehow not part of my income is the bigger "redefinition" of your assertion.
6
Thank you for the thoughtful piece Jess, it appears that Dave is sicking his employees on you over threat of losing their jobs.

Dave Meinert is a grifter and a thief. Whether it's stealing band members to puff up his LA come Seattle music business or stealing nickels and dimes to stuff his fat pockets from all his workers, it's the same BS.

Don't believe their conservative hipster crap. $15 NOW!
7
If gratuity is not income, then car salesman commission or retailer sales clerk bonus/ commission structure does not qualify as income too. Even though IRS treats it as such and State agencies tax the employers on it as well.
Where is the logic?
This whole piece will have a complete merit if it there was a proposal lowering the state mandated current MW floor for servers, based on their tip income. I'm assuming that's what Virginia does.
I'm yet to hear anybody proposing such a travesty.
What's there to even discuss?
8
@1 "There are ALREADY successful enforcement statutes to make sure that people are paid what they're supposed to be paid"

Then why: "A seminal 2009 study of nearly 4,500 low-wage workers found that more than two-thirds experienced at least
one pay-related violation in their previous work week, including a quarter of workers who were paid less than minimum wage, and three quarters who were not paid overtime wages owed to them." 1
Annette Bernhardt et al., Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities
(New York: Center for Urban Economic Development at UIC, National Employment Law Project and UCLA Institute for
Research on Labor and Employment, 2009), available at www.nelp.org/page/-brokenlaws/BrokenLaws….

No, it is NOT so cool to spread untruths in the service of shafting low-wage workers for the benefit of increasing the already engorged pocket books of folks such as Dave Meinert that are skilled in the art of producing crocodile tears.
9
Hey "I'm Cool", didn't you finance your bar with inherited money? Or was it a trust fund? Yeah, I know your dirt.

Have you ever worked for minimum wage? Your rich, entitled, arrogant, white ass has never visited a food bank, or worried about where the rent was coming from. It must be incredibly easy to spout off from your privileged position.
10
@8 how does raising minimum wage change any of the already in place enforcement laws? Won't the same problems still exist?

@9 wow. Very eloquent. So people who own business are not allowed to speak out as to how to raise the minimum wage? That kind of talk weakens your position.
11
Why would the waitress and her customers be SINGING, btw?
12
I'd be impressed with the "we'll make sure there's enforcement" argument-if it wasn't being made by the same people who write big checks to elect Republican Congressmen, senators and state legislators(and "pro-business Democrats", who are basically just Republicans who don't hate women and gays)that go on to pass budgets that cut funds for the enforcement division of EVERY state and federal regulatory agencies.

The argument they're making is not much different than the argument that we didn't(and still don't) need the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts because we've got the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution...you know, the same 14th and 15th Amendments that the U.S. government agreed not to enforce from 1876 to 1964.
13
As I understand it there are people breaking current laws. Therefore we make new laws that won't change anything?

While I'm sure there is plenty of wage theft, I'm equally sure there are a lot of people who don't understand their wages well enough to know that an employer is paying what they are supposed to pay.

It really isn't that complex. I have a hard time suggesting that we shouldn't do it because an employee won't understand it. Hmm... maybe then they don't deserve $15/hr if they can't even understand how their own compensation works?
14
@10 - My point was that "I'm Cool" was either lying and/or misinformed about the current enforcement of laws on the books.

Increasing the min. wage doesn't necessarily solve wage theft issues, but legislation could include that issue, changing the reporting laws e.g. at the Mayor's symposium several people talked about the San Francisco model that makes reporting and investigating much easier, and empowers third party non-profits to investigate and gives them reporting powers. The punishment for wage theft also needs to be increased drastically.
15
I think if tips are a verifiable source of income, like commissions, bonus etc, in the eyes of the IRS, and people are paying taxes on these earnings. It would stand to reason these earnings should be considered. How do you simply argue they con not be because employers will steal, when the IRS can provide the documentation to prove otherwise. It's a fairly simple concept in regard to the way it would appear on a pay check.

John Smith Server Gentlemen.
Hourly = $9.50 per hour
Healthcare = .50 per hour
Tips = $2 per hour
Employer Adjustments = $3 per hour

Total Compensation = $15 per hour.

In the case where John Smith Server Gentlemen is making what is more common in seattle for tips.

John Smith Server Gentlemen.
Hourly = $9.50 per hour
Healthcare = .50 per hour
Tips = $15 per hour
Employer Adjustments = $0 per hour

Total Compensation = $25 per hour.

Total compensation in this case ensures the employee is lifted out of poverty, which is the goal, while reducing unnecessary raises to front of house staff. This allows small business to reduce the price inflation needed to provide these higher wages, while achieving freedom from poverty! whoot. win win.
16
Bogart. Is hiring the mexican from Home depot for $10bucks cash an hour to help you on home improvement Wage Theft?? Is paying the teenage babysitter $10 bucks to watch your kid Wage Theft?
Is having the neighborhood kid mow your grass a travesty and in need of strict law enforcement
..
17
@6 I assume you are neither an employer or employee. Probably just one step above homeless..
18
@9 without money he's still smarter than you are.
19
WA already has 3 less servers per establishment than the national average. Tips are wages, that is a fact. Service industry is labor intensive and increases make a big difference. To stay in business, one has to make money. Jobs will be lost, cut, automation..what ever it takes. It has been going on since '99 with small minimum wage increases. It will be ugly with a big on.
20
I love how all the people that have never provided a job in their life or met a payroll at 2 in the morning feel they can just take at the point of a gun. Truly pathetic.

I love how she cites all these biased studies/polls. Oh, here's a surprise. Someone walked into some fast food restaurants and asked the employees if they'd prefer to make $9.32 or $15.00 -- and...wait for it...a bunch of them answered $15.00!! Who would have ever guessed that?

This whole thing is a pathetic charade and Jess Spear is nothing but the leader of a gang of thieves. If you don't like what a business is paying -- don't work there. No one is pointing a gun at your head.

And all this absurdity about such and such happening in Virginia - what a red herring. In her testimony in front of city council (which I attended), she even managed to drag sexual harassment as a waitress (from customers) into the mix and claim that was a basis for a 60% jump to $15.

When they learn they can vote themselves money, it will herald the end of the republic. -- Benjamin Franklin
21
Wage theft happens all the time In King county, and big corporations are party to it. I work a "commission only" retail sales job, the corporation is supposed to be compensated for all time away from the sales floor, but it does everything it can to avoid paying us for that time. They used to have replenishment people who were paid to stock the floor. Now the commission sales people do it. They used to have a signing crew who put the signs up for all the ads. Now the commission sales people The time spent on the floor before and after the store closes is usually not paid.

I really have no control over how much money I make. The corporation sets the commission guidelines, which change whenever they feel like it. The corporation decides how many of us will be on the floor "splitting the pie" and when I make less than minimum wage, the difference is paid to be and deducted from future pay checks. Whenever the corporations profits fall they cut more from our commissions, or require us to do more unpaid work. Never mind that the CEO is making an obscene amount of money for mismanaging the company.

The "enforcement" argument is a poor one, corporations have more money and time to fight than those of us trying to get by. The best system is to have a strict minimum wage that doesn't allow other benefits to be deducted from it. Fifteen dollars an hour is not a living wage for a family. Two parents both making $15 can barely afford to live in this area, and many families have only one adult in the household. Other compensation won't pay for the rent, the power bill, the telephone bill, the water bill, the food, the clothing, the school supplies, transportation costs) and the all the other little expenses that add up. People that work hard deserve a living wage, adequate health and dental care, and money that they can live on when they can no longer work.

22
@20: If you don't like paying a decent wage, get out of business. No one is holding a gun to your head.

Hey, if you can't pay a living wage and run a business, just make your business more profitable.

That is what business owners tell low wage employees, so why shouldn't it work both ways?
23
@22: the good news is that with all these guys getting out of the game there'll be plenty of space for others to step in who WANT to pay living wages!
24
This isn't that hard. It's not a matter of whether or not people have "made a payroll" or "run a business" or whether they've been servers or worked for a commission. TIPS are supposed to be extra money from the customers for good service. They are not supposed to be income. The IRS tries to collect taxes on that PRECISELY because other states have created sub-minimum wages and made tips part of income.

Pay your employees what they're worth. Don't ask me as a CUSTOMER to cover your employer costs. If -- IF -- that leads to some customers tipping less, and a decrease in compensation for SOME service staff, then maybe they'll think about whether or not to continue working in your establishment. That's what other businesses have to do. More boutique establishments offer higher wages and better benefits to attract more skilled workers.
25
So by calling yourself @a_real_live_employer you mean paying a teenager for babysitting. Wage theft (as you would know if you were capable of following the full citation to a study of 4,500 low wage workers I posted) is when workers are forced to work through breaks, or clock out and keep working. Tips are stolen by employers all the time. Reality and data do not jive with right-wing dreamscapes where the market is free, supply magically meets demand without any power relations exerting themselves on the process of contract negotiation, and the oh sooooo simple libertarian textbook econ logic actually works. Sounds like a nice dream, but its time to wake up.
26
Why not just eliminate tipping? Why should a server get $15 plus tips when a cashier or any other employee in a non tipping job can only get $15 and no tips?

If this is about equality, we should establish one minimum wage and everyone in a minimum wage job should get the same no matter what the job is.
27
@24 I agree, asking the customer to pay your server's wage so the restaurant doesn't have to is bullshit. The restaurant should have to pay.

But my question for you is: if tips are for good service, why don't we tip our cashier at the grocery store? Or the mechanic at the bike shop? Or the clerk at the bookstore?

I would argue that a cashier can work just as hard as a server and yet they aren't eligible for tips. I think if we eliminated tipping altogether it would be more fair for everyone.
28
All of you that are saying tips should be eliminated in the name of a higher minimum wage increase- please, for the love of us restaurant folks, stop it.

I've worked in restaurants all over this country since 1988, most of the time in tip credit states, and thanks to tips have been able to live comfortably wherever I've gone. Is it nice making $9.32/hour here in Washington? Of course! However, if you think that restaurant folks are in it for the hourly wage, you're crazy. Raise it, don't raise it- we're still going to stay in the biz because we all quickly learn that any minimum wage + tips is way better and more lucrative than schlepping at some retail job or, god forbid, some corporate job.

The only thing that truly scares us is when people that are not in our industry start painting us as victims that need to be rescued. Pushing for a $15 wage for tipped employees will cut our hours, will cut our shifts, cut our tips (based on many comments) and will push some bars and restaurants out of business- which will cost some of us our jobs.

Save the fast food workers, save the big box retail folks- they truly deserve your attention. Please, though, listen to us when we say- leave us out of it.
29
Bogart.
Clearly were not living in a Rightwing Dreamscape in Seattle. And your solution is to create another government agency of Wage Cops to go into business owners establishment and interrogate their employee's to find dirt..Sounds Great!!!

I Like the Dream where some idealistic sycophant like you doesnt get to decide who gets paid what the employee and Employer do when sign a contract to work together.

Only in this Country is someone in Poverty who gets Food Stamps, Section 8 Housing, Medi-caid , Subsidized Day Care , Subsidized transportation & $10-12 per hour considered in Poverty.

I think the rest of the world would love to get 1/4 of that.
30
@28 - thanks for your perspective - but, if you look at the data, your experience is not normal.

You might check out this post:

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…

31
Not sure why they just don't say, "If you make $X dollars of profit per year, you have to pay your employees $Y per hour" and then just set up brackets so business that have a very slim profit margin wouldn't have to worry so much. And yes, I think tips should be included in income. #27 is right, when you go out, do you tip anyone else for good service? If your worried about people at McDonalds not getting paid enough, tip them. Most servers I know make a livable wage, even at the current MW.