Olympia is considering joining Seattle in impending economic ruin by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Olympia City Council member Jim Cooper, chair of the finance committee, raised the prospect of a $15 minimum wage last week.
Editorializing on the wage “discussion,” The Olympian recently made light of South Sound business groups’ valid concerns—concerns they presented at a general government committee meeting—over a $15 minimum wage. The Olympian writes,
Predictably, they painted a doom and gloom scenario to a higher minimum wage. Businesses would leave town. Prices to consumers would go up. Small stores would go out of business.
As if turning to a sane member of the business community, The Olympian highlights the opinion of Olympia business owner Mike Fritsch who already pays his employees close to $15 per hour and believes “fears of raising the wage are overblown.” Comparing Fritsch with Seattle’s Tom Douglas, the newspaper states,
During the City of Seattle’s minimum wage debate, Tom Douglas, owner of 14 restaurants in Seattle, emerged as voice of reason. He has voluntarily raised the pay of all his employees to $15 per hour.
Why? As he told National Public Radio, “The more you put dollars into people’s hands to be spent, I’m sure it probably would be healthy for the economy.”
In other words, doing the right thing and taking good care of your employees makes business sense. It could make sense for the City of Olympia, too.
The Olympian is right. During Seattle’s $15 minimum wage debate, Tom Douglas did emerge as the voice of reason. But, not because he came out in fervent support for the wage increase. In fact, Douglas strongly cautioned against an across-the-board wage increase of $15 per hour. As SHIFT reported, Douglas issued powerful public statements on the subject. Douglas wrote,
This is going to touch everybody soon, so I suggest you do your own math and see where it might affect your life. Can or will your employer still afford health care? Staff meals? Everything you buy from local produce to rent to childcare to your own meals out on the town will be affected. We do know that the City Council and Mayor’s office will still make their wage and enjoy their health and retirement benefits without fail….
I would be lying to say that I’m not concerned with the outcome of this national experiment happening in the Seattle market. It is also not lost on me that our City Council and Mayor’s office have very little small business experience. While they have budgets to live by, they are not playing with their own cash. Parking meter fees, B&O tax dollars, excise “sales” taxes and fees collected from tourist and business travelers and the rest of us are chess pieces to be moved on a board, but the cost of failure is ours, the tax payers. Raises and benefits given to city workers are from our tax pockets. They might get voted out of office for their actions and decrees, but they won’t go bankrupt. It is inherently easier to spend other people’s money than the gut check of investing your last dime into a dream…
It is clear to me that this is a direct tax on restaurants like we were some sort of vice like tobacco or marijuana. It is also a thinly veiled tax grab for the city. First the lusty new parking rates and now 20 to 25 percent more sales taxes on increased menu pricing. Shel Silverstein wrote an elegant morality tale called “The Giving Tree” and I’m afraid our leaders have not read it recently. Seattle’s City Council and Mayor attribute their election to the support of organized labor while we as a community are being eaten alive, limb by limb… This minimum wage issue could, depending on the outcome, be the most serious threat to our ability to compete so far.
Too bad the Seattle City Council and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray did not listen to the person The Olympian describes as the “voice of reason” in the $15 minimum wage debate. Thanks to unprecedented wage increase, economists now are bidding Seattle “goodbye.”