Seattle City Council members Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden served coffee to $15 minimum wage marchers outside City Hall.
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • Seattle City Council members Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden served coffee to $15 minimum wage marchers outside City Hall.

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Read Slog's comment threads or the op/ed page of the Seattle Times (pretty much the same level of trollery) and you might think that a $15 minimum wage is CRAZY TALK—the idiotic far-fringe ramblings of commies, morons, and Aztlán revolutionaries. Anybody who knows anything about economics, the critics argue, knows that a $15 minimum wage would be a job-killing/small-business-destroying disaster.

But if a $15 minimum wage is as far outside the mainstream of economic and political thought as its critics imply, you wouldn't know it from the official reception pro-$15 marchers received on the steps of Seattle City Hall yesterday. I saw at least five of the nine council members who will vote on a proposed ordinance greet marchers at the end of their 15-mile trek from SeaTac—Mike O'Brien, Nick Licata, Sally Bagshaw, Jean Godden, and of course Kshama Sawant. And Bagshaw and Godden went so far as to show their support by serving the marchers coffee.

Bagshaw and Godden are hardly radicals.

The fact is there's nothing radical about suggesting that the minimum wage should be higher in Seattle than it is in much of the rest of the state. Nearly everything is more expensive in Seattle—housing especially—and minimum wage workers here simply need higher pay than their counterparts in, say, Yakima or Ferry counties. Whether that number should be $12 or $15 or $20, well, that boat has already sailed. By refusing to participate honestly in this debate opponents have passed up the opportunity to participate in calculating the proper number. So $15 it is, and the majority of council members seem comfortable with that.

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Turns out, it's the Seattle Times editorial board that is far outside of Seattle's political mainstream, not the $15 minimum wage advocates. So if the editors want to remain relevant in this debate it is time for them to stop simply dissing the proposal, and to start suggesting ways to make it better. There is room for compromise in terms of the length of time it takes to phase in a $15 an hour wage, the types of businesses that might be exempted, and whether or not to include a tip credit, for example.

But to flat out argue against a $15 minimum wage in Seattle isn't just a losing argument, it's an argument that has already lost.

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