Who's Afraid of $15?

Theaters Large and Small Say They're Ready to Raise the Minimum Wage—Even if They Don't Have To


So, if they're so enthusiastic about raising the MW to $15/hr then why are they waiting for the law to pass? If they are going to raise it to $15 anyways, regardless of the law passing, then what are they waiting for? Do it now! Put your progressive money where your progressive mouth is.
Who at ACT isn’t already paid over $15 an hour? It’s a union house. The Bartenders and cleaning staff are contracted out, so we’re not talking about them. Big Art houses aren’t the same as small businesses; they can go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and still survive. Look at Intiman. This is one of the most disingenuous PR moves I’ve ever heard.
Since they contract out so much work, will contractors be paid $15/hr?
"as in San Francisco"

Agreed! We should use San Francisco's minimum wage = $10.55 an hour
Niles, stop being an asshole and breathe for a second. The house staff is paid less than $15/hour. Not sure about box office people.
House staff is paid less than $15/hour. Box office is paid less than $15/hour. I believe the same is true for most of the employees working for the organization's administrative wing. Marketing. Development. Finance. Education.

While that may be true vis-a-vis ACT and larger venues, smaller ones like Theatre Off Jackson, Hugo House, et al most certainly are commensurate with a typical small business.

The difference here seems to be more philosophical: these organizations seem open to the idea of paying $15 an hour (and remember, with the exception of a few bartenders, NOBODY at these places is going to receive tip income) and finding ways to make that happen, as opposed to throwing their hands in the air and whinging about what an imposition it will be on their bottom line - and yes, even non-profits need to pay attention to their bottom line, if they don't want to end up like Intiman or other now-defunct organizations.
@1 i know! i agree completely! Act should voluntarily raise its minimum wage anyway. So should Theatre Off Jackson, the tiny basement theater in the International District, even though its budget is roughly 3 percent of ACT's.

why don't they put their progressive money where their progressive mouths are??!!?!?
I work for a mid-sized theatre with a paid staff. I asked them back in December to voluntary raise my minimum wage to $15/hour. They happily said yes. And because they wanted to keep me, they did .50 better. Because I love that organization dearly, it's unfortunate to see that some orgs aren't just going ahead and making it a more comfortable place to work. Support your staff.
"Despite the outcry from some restaurant and bar owners in the past few weeks, not everyone running small and midsize businesses with razor-thin margins is panicking about the prospect of a $15 minimum wage."

Apple and oranges.

Yeah, it's panic. Bar owners are not allowed to be concerned about a 60% increase plus all of the peripheral costs of goods and services we deal with on a daily basis.

What costs are going up for theaters? Restaurant/bar owners are going to see an increase in delivery/warehouse/goods, as all those purveyors costs will also go up.

Is theater competition as cut-throat as competition between bars and restaurants? The Stranger should start a "Now Closed, theater R.I.P", just like they regularly do in the food section.

A bunch of henny-penny, little devils that think the sky is falling. That's us!

What a crock of snark.

Well, that's pretty much exactly how it sounds to those of us who aren't in the restaurant business - as your own comment aptly demonstrates.

Have you been paying attention? Theaters have been shuttering down at an alarming rate in the past decade. Is the theater competition as cut-throat as bars and restaurants? Well, seeing as how they are all fighting for an ever shrinking audience and ever shirnking arts funding um.. Yes.
Pagliaccis is thinking about cutting delivery drivers down to a servers wage... 2 $ an hour, while the in house cooks get their 15$ hr wage.
Sure delivery drivers get tipped, but its never consistent. Some people dont even tip... i dont know what i will do...

without divulging any specifics, I'd say less than 30% ACT's employees (outside of IATSe union) make over $15 an hour. This article, among other things, brings an incredible sigh of relief for all of us who have held on for a long time 'cause we love where we work. Carlo Scandiuzzi is an amazing boss all ready, and now he's piloted himself to the stratosphere of a hero!
It's funny, but that's not the reaction I get when I discuss things like an adult, in person.

I am behind the bar 4 days a week, genuinely discussing this topic with all manner of customers. Sometimes they are pro 15now, sometimes not. I can tell you that not one of them has called me "panicked" or a liar, or a dunce. I fail to see the "panic" in my post. Feel free to quote the offending passage(s).

Fair enough. I mean no disrespect. I don't think the volume of theaters closed in seattle in the last ten years approaches the number of bar/restaurants though. Maybe % wise? Feel free to fill me in. I have read Mr. Kiley's piece from 6/8/2011.
@10, you ask what costs are going up for theaters? How about wood, steel, glue, lamps, gel, wire, nails, staples, paint, tape, paper, printing, ink, carpet, maintenance, healthcare and benefits, L&I, trash collection, software, computers, I could go on. When the cost of plywood DOUBLES in a year, and a theatre can go through 500 sheets a year, that is a big hit.
@1 - that's exactly what ACT and Theatre Off Jackson say they're doing. The proposed legislation has sparked internal discussion, and each organization is working it into their budgets.
Agree, big hit. Thanks for the info.

Most of the things you mention apply to me as well. Limes recently DOUBLED in price (sans wage increase). How many limes do ya think a busy bar goes through. Plenty of maintenance in my business.

The plywood thing is def a tough one for you guuys though (no sarcasm).
@1 and @8 They're likely waiting for the new fiscal year. Most non-profit theatres' budgets are set for a year and it upends things greatly to make significant increases midway through. As the article mentions, they operate on paper-thin margins with a combination of earned and contributed income. I would assume that they're waiting until the 2015 fiscal year when they can make the appropriate budget adjustments to allow for the wage increase.
The real story here is not ACT and its phony "people are worth it" line. (Of course they are!) The real story is why The Stranger is so obviously set on getting this pushed through to constantly have biased articles reiterating bleached out rhetoric.

Stranger, just come out and say it: Teens, handicapped, entry-level workers, recovering addicts, new immigrants, and all the rest of you scum dont deserve to build your skills in our City. Go to Bothell or Everett to do that!
Look if your business can afford it why the hell did you wait for this movement. Was is not a just cause as much 2 years ago as it is today.

Anyways this article is rife with misleading statements. Like the fact that one theatre uses volunteers. The other theatre already pays $15 which is great if that works for their business model but is not relevant.

Thats about as relevant as Jeff Bezos saying that he pays his Janitors @ Amazon more then $15 per hour...yay!! And Amazon makes Billions of dollars & janitorial staff makes almost a fraction of 1% of his labor force.

This Theater group that doesn't currently pay $15 but had a "Come to Jesus" moment is not a good representation of the Business Enviroment in Seattle.
Que Angry Mob!!
Look if your business can afford it why the hell did you wait for this movement. Was is not a just cause as much 2 years ago as it is today.

Anyways this article is rife with misleading statements. Like the fact that one theatre uses volunteers. The other theatre already pays $15 which is great if that works for their business model but is not relevant.

Thats about as relevant as Jeff Bezos saying that he pays his Janitors @ Amazon more then $15 per hour...yay!! And Amazon makes Billions of dollars & janitorial staff makes almost a fraction of 1% of his labor force.

This Theater group that doesn't currently pay $15 but had a "Come to Jesus" moment is not a good representation of the Business Environment in Seattle.
Que Angry Mob!!

I didn't call you any of those things either - YOU called them out yourself. And if, as you state, "I don't think the volume of theaters closed in seattle (sic) in the last ten years approaches the number of bar/restaurants...", then what exactly IS your point? By you'r own admission, restaurants open and close all the time RIGHT NOW; so maybe the REAL issue here has nothing to do with MW, but rather that some people - whether through incompetence, under-capitalization, poor location choice, or just plain rotten luck - aren't very adept at running a business, period. How is that the fault of people who think workers should be given some modicum of dignity, respect - and compensation - for their work, whatever it is and whatever their personal circumstances?


Notwithstanding the fact that an overwhelming majority of MW workers don't fit into any of the categories you cite, why do you think anyone who DOES shouldn't earn a Living Wage salary? After all, work is work, right? Or do you consider these people somehow LESS deserving than everyone else?
Another TERRIBLE argument, this time by a normally-reasonable and thoughtful person, Brendan Kiley, by a truly reasonable and very thoughtful person, Gian-Carlo.

All due-respect to my friends (and I mean that) Brendan & Gian-Carlo - where the Scandiuzzi family can absorb this increase in operational costs, most small businesses; while sharing the Scandiuzzi care for our community, do not have the Scandiuzzi deep pockets to enable such a move. And, frankly, Brendan, you should know this. Making an apples & oranges comparison belittles not just your argument but the integrity within your opinion on this.

Sure, perhaps I'm reading too much into this and it's not that by trotting out someone that can afford to pay their people more as if to say that 'This is not such a big deal.' Well, that's tough to accept because it's just ridiculous and is bordering on dishonest since I assume that you know that he is not the typical small business that will be in such danger if this goes through.

What will happen with this story is that people will take this argument (I've not read the comments yet, but I bet that they're already there in number) and extrapolate and extend it to represent for them the whole small business community. That's just not factually relevant to what our small businesses are having to deal with.

Sure, some businesses will do fine. You may as well post the same thing about McDonald's or some other large, national business that can absorb this dramatic rise in the cost of their payroll, because the effect is the same. It's a lot easier to not worry to much about this small-business-killing 60+% rise in payroll if one can easily afford it.

Apples to oranges.

How about apples to apples?

Please keep in mind, Brendan, if this goes through without carveouts for businesses such as mine in part due to stories such as this one, the next time you or Gian-Carlo want to come by for some drinks or sushi, we'll probably not be there in our present form for you...if here at all.

Comte @ 7 - "While that may be true vis-a-vis ACT and larger venues, smaller ones like Theatre Off Jackson, Hugo House, et al most certainly are commensurate with a typical small business."

Yup, but did Brendan reach out to them to get their opinion? Did he do the work to tell the whole story?

Oops. I have just re-read the article, and some are there...but did you hear from any that said anything different? I just ask because having had conversation with arts non-profits, not ONE was so demonstrably laissez-faire in attitude about their future.

I'm not the conspiratorial type, but it makes me wonder if they in public just didn't want to publicly voice their fear of their future as some of these same orgs have shared in private...and judging for how those that DO speak out are treated, I don't blame them.
@ 25. Yes, TOJ and HH are quoted in the story.

Here's a question in response: Did you actually READ the fucking article? Because there are quotes right in there from people at both of those organizations.

Jebuz fucking Christ on a Ritz cracker...
True, these theater and dance companies are nonprofits, but just like for-profit businesses, they have to maintain a balance sheet, and just like many small businesses, they operate on margins that range from slim to nonexistent.

True, enough--but no caveat is really necessary. The main difference between a for-profit and a nonprofit enterprise is what happens to the profit. For-profit companies distribute profits to the owners and (if applicable) to shareholders. Not with the nonprofit. Any profit left over after the bills are paid has to be plowed back into the organization's service program (in this case, producing theatre), or kept in reserve. It cannot be distributed to individuals, such as the organization's board of directors.

(Hutton, Stan, and Frances Phillips. "Tuning In to the World of Nonprofit Organizations." Nonprofit kit for dummies. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub., Inc., 2010. . Print.)

While nonprofits do not pay a business or corporate federal income tax, if these organizations have any employees (not talking 1090's here), they most definitely ante up payroll taxes, sales taxes (in 45 states), UI benefit monies. To name a few.

These 501(c)3's should be lauded for this stand. People rightly grouse about how wages have flat-lined in our country for the past decade. For those of us in the arts, this process started over 20 years ago.
@18 A drought and drug cartels is the cause of the spike in the price of limes, not the cost of labor. Certainly not the cost of labor specifically in Seattle. I don't see this law really affecting any of your raw materials, since if you're like every restaurant I've worked in you probably get all your shit delivered by Sysco anyway.
Dear I'm cool, just for your information the Scandiuzzi Family does not own ACT theater. I work at ACT like everybody else. So deep pockets or not this is about my decision to provide a living wage to the staff.
@13: Pagliaci's is NOT planning to put anyone at $2 an hour. You've been listening to the real fear mongers, aka the 15now people if you believe that. Even if the city passes a $15 wage that allows tip credits-something many of us support- that doesn't negate the state law that says your base wage can't go below $9.32. Do some research before you go parroting stupid claims.
@20 There has been no shortage of pieces putting the opposite point of view, as you're well aware. The fact that you're trying to use this example of balancing dialogue to challenge the Stranger's integrity says a huge amount about the strategy game you're playing.

Still more transparent (and tortuous) is this ideological reversal tactic. That arguing for a higher minimum wage is so right wing. "You're like the tea party! Ronald Reagan! Really you're trying to *oppress* workers by saying they need a living wage!"

Honestly, if that's the best you can come up with in your little strategy conflabs, I'm sorry. But not surprised if your businesses are struggling.
As a long time employee of ACT, I am glad to see this happen. For those that believe that it is easy for the company to afford this, I am here to tell you that is not true. They watch money very carefully. ACT has hung from the cliff and they don't want to go there again. At the same time, they know that they are successful partly because they have a loyal staff. This loyalty is a 2 way street. It doesn't matter how much you love your job if you can't afford the basics. This move will have a financial cost, but they will be able to retain a super loyal staff that will do anything to help the company succeed. Totally worth it.
Bullshit article.

The businesses referenced employee how many people? Yeah, not many. Add to the low number of employees the union involvement - IATSE notably. That covers projectionists, lights, scene builds, rigging, etc.

Next is the inevitable increase in price for all sorts of materials and services these arts businesses utilize. All their building, office, janitorial, etc supplies will be increasing in cost.

Oh, and several of the businesses listed use contract labor. I'm *sure* the contractors are going to be willing to just absorb profit margin cuts. Yeah, thats going to happen.

Pull your head out of your asshole Kiley - The proposed MW increase is going to redefine the cost of living for employees, resulting in a zero net gain (at best). Similarly, it will increase the cost of doing business.

The idiot left has really strapped on the "MOAR MONEYZ IS GUD!" blinders for 15now.

Good luck with that approach. It isn't the absolute # of dollars made per hour that matters, it is the cost of living. This idiot attempt to reassure idiots who can't grasp that fact is pathetic.
My 16 year old daughter asked me: what happens to the people who are making $15 an hour right now?
Just to clear things up,

I originally quoted the article, which snarkily characterized bar/restaurant owners as panicking.

I also pointed out that theaters and bars/restaurants are not really comparable (apples and oranges).

COMTE commented that my post aptly demonstrated this "panic".@11 (or else I totally misunderstood).

@15 I mention that I have had many, adult discussions on the subject and that, contrary to what COMTE says,

"...this is exactly how it sounds to those of us who aren't in the restaurant business",

isn't really accurate in my experience.

@23 COMTE starts telling me that I called these things out myself. The words liar and dunce were not in the piece, but are words/sentiments that have been hurled at bar/restaurants for months, as they try to discuss this serious topic. Again, "panicking" was used in the piece.

Then, blah, blah, tangent I never meant to get on about theaters failing vs. bars failing which is off track (though I did open the door).

Finally, indetroitnow@30
I know why limes have doubled in price. I was simply responding to theatre tech @16. Drawing a parallel between plywood and limes as two things that have doubled WITHOUT any labor$ increase. No way on the Sysco thing.

Sorry for the re-hash.
@2 - I can say that as recently as 2005, new admin hires at union theaters were paid as little as $10/hr., and that someone on the admin staff could work up to nearly a decade without it reaching over $12.50/hr. as recently as 18 months ago (freezes on merit raises were fairly common, and COL increases virtually unheard of; there are more reasons than the official one why they call such organizations "non-profit"). And for the most part, employees live with it because not a few of them are performers or writers in their own right grateful for solid employment with employers who "get it" when time off was requested for artistic pursuits.
Something's wrong with this fuckin paper. I remember reading really cool , interesting and creative stories about things like "the 10 weirdest places in Seattle", and most recently the story about the guy who got attacked by an owl. But now it's just ONE BORING, AVERAGE NEWS STORY AFTER ANOTHER!!! Where's the creative writing, the comedy, the stuff that's fun to read??? CAN WE HAVE ONE ISSUE WITHOUT A STORY ABOUT THE GODDAMN MINIMUM WAGE!!!!!
@39 on the contrary I look forward to every new issue these days, hoping to see further continuation of this conversation. This is a huge deal, and we all need to really consider the repercussions! These stories have led to discussions we (or at least I, and everybody I know) were not having earlier.
@23 and @33

#1) Washington State has the highest minimum-wage in the nation. It also has one of the highest youth unemployment. Income mobility and skill building is not achieved through denying people a job. I know, I was a min-wage dishwasher.

#2) The Stranger is definitely biased. Savage is a strong proponent of Sawant, just for one example.

#3 My business is not struggling. I pay my workers based off of a wage and off of well paid incentives - which give me a market advantage and rewards jobs well done. I also often mentor youth and hire recovering addicts. $15 hour would extremely limit these options.

The same people afraid of no longer being overpaid,undertaxed, and "forced" to live around "Negroes" (unless they are picking crops for free . . . o.O ---- http://theyrule.net ).
Could not but help notice the anti-fifteen crowd is basically composed of "humans" who are not members of workers' unions . . . ---- http://www.iwa-ait.org