Proponents of the $15 minimum wage have scorned stories of small business closures in San Francisco and Seattle as mere scare tactics. They’ve reassured the public that there is no truth to negative economic forecasts, dismissing small business closures as unrelated to the debate. But, $15 minimum wage advocates cannot ignore stories like that of Ritu Shah Burnham, owner Z Pizza in Seattle.
Due to the rise in labor costs, Burham cannot stay in business. Burham says she has exhausted her options in attempts to make ends meet given the new cost burden of the $15 minimum wage. Via Q13 Fox News,
“I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself,” she says. “I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”
Though Burham only employs 12 people, her small businesses—which is part of the Z Pizza franchise—is treated like a large business (classified as more than 500 employees) under Seattle’s discriminatory $15 minimum wage law. That means Burham is on the two-year fast track for phasing in a $15 per hour wage for her employees—a track that she cannot keep up with.
Burham’s employees will be out of jobs—a prospect that has employee Devin Jeran questioning how the $15 minimum wage has made life better for him. Jeran told Q13 Fox News, “If that’s the truth, I don’t think that’s very apparent. People like me are finding themselves in a tougher situation than ever.”
For her part, Burham is “absolutely terrified” for her employees’ future job opportunities. She said, “I have no idea where they’re going to find jobs, because if I’m cutting hours, I imagine everyone is across the board.”
One person who is not concerned over Burham’s closure and her employees’ job losses is the director of 15 Now in Seattle, Jess Spear—Spear ran for the Washington State Legislature as a Socialist and lost. Like $15 minimum wage advocates have done time and time again, Spear dismissed the closure saying: “Restaurants open and close all the time, for various reasons.”