Jess Spear is the organizing director of 15 Now.
Dave Meinert argues that we need "total compensation" and a tip deduction so your favorite local business won't go under. Yet Mayor Murray's Advisory Committee has studied numerous local minimum wage laws around the U.S. The data does not support Meinert’s assertions. In reality, his proposal would be a giant step backward in labor standards.
Washington State led the way in 1988, passing I-518 and eliminating the tip penalty. In the process we raised wages for tipped workers by 85 percent in two years (spoiler alert: it did not destroy the local economy).
While some tipped workers earn decent tips at high-end restaurants, the fact is tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty. Female tipped workers report five times more sexual harassment than in other industries.
Seattle has the largest gender pay gap of any large metropolitan city in the U.S. Women make up 70 percent of all tipped workers who live in poverty. Tip penalty or total compensation will widen the inequality gap and keep many working mothers in poverty in spite of a higher minimum wage.
Meinert argues that total compensation would be readily verifiable and businesses would not underpay their workers. Don't believe it. Everywhere that tip penalty and total compensation exist, wage theft is widespread.
On March 15, Councilmember Sawant proposed a three-year phase in for small businesses and nonprofits, with big business going immediately to $15. All workers would get $15 plus the cost of living adjustment on January 1, 2018. This would address the needs of small business and nonprofits by allowing them time to adjust.
One point I do agree with Dave: Go talk to your local bartender or barista. Ask them about $15. I can bet you their answer will be, "I support it, but I'm concerned about small businesses." Then ask them what they think about a three-year phase in for small business. Without fail, I have heard, "Yes, then I would support it."
The reality is that total compensation would, after business is done exercising its powers of deduction, result in no real wage increase for many workers. It could turn $15/hr into a cruel joke. Instead of copying the weakest parts of other cities' minimum wage laws, we should reject total compensation and tip credit which undermine workers' wages.
Let's pass a real $15 minimum wage in Seattle and inspire workers around the country to do the same.