A recent Seattle Times editorial written by two members of a nine-person team “charged by the City of Seattle to study the effects of the minimum wage” should leave readers in a state of discomfort. Perhaps more than any other statement made concerning the new minimum wage, the article drives home the reality that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage experiment is just that… an experiment.
The two experimenters begin their article by pointing out the “simple truth” that “we don’t know what will happen.” But, they say, “We aim to find out.” Via the Times,
“Evidence from other places and other times, collected by labor economists over decades, is contested. And no locality to date has raised wages as substantially as the Seattle wage scale promises to do over the next few years. Moreover, the economic evidence has mostly focused on employment effects without carrying the analysis forward to study poverty and inequality.”
They go on to spell out how they plan on gathering the results of the $15 minimum wage experiment and conclude,
“We don’t yet know what the impact of today’s wage increase will ultimately be. As social scientists, our role is simply to report what happens and to leave it to the citizens and leaders of Seattle to decide whether the effects are good or bad.”
Seattle’s businesses—both big and small—are just subjects of this experiment. Subjects that will, sooner or later, feel the full impact of the $15 minimum wage law.
The experimenters may not know what will happen as a result of the $15 minimum wage law. But, the subjects know they’ve been tossed into an experiment they never signed up for.
And no locality to date has raised wages as substantially as the Seattle wage scale promises to do over the next few years.
Do you know what leaves this reader in a “state of discomfort”? The idea his Seattle tax dollars are going to people who can’t find SeaTac on a map:
City leaders in SeaTac say they’ve noticed little impact on the overall economy one year after voters increased the hourly minimum wage to $15. […] City manager Todd Cutts says there has been no impact on sales tax or property tax, and no change in the number of business licenses issued.
However, there have indeed been unpredicted effects:
The law requires hoteliers with more than 100 rooms to pay workers $15 an hour. Scott Ostrander, former general manager of the Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac, said before the law was passed he would close several rooms in his hotel to avoid having to comply. However Cedarbrook Lodge is now moving forward with a 63-room expansion and recently started paying the $15 per hour minimum wage.
(Perhaps The Seattle Times should require its editorial writers to, um, read The Seattle Times?!?)
We also have no reason to doubt their research methods:
We chose participating businesses at random from all firms licensed to do business in the city. […] We are focusing on employers most likely to be affected — restaurants, retailers, small manufacturers, immigrant-owned businesses and nonprofit human services.
Well, which is it? Are they using a sample of “…businesses at random from all firms licensed to do business in the city”, or are they slanting their investigation towards “…estaurants, retailers, small manufacturers, immigrant-owned businesses and nonprofit human services”. Because the latter is not a random sample, and will exclude employers such as Expedia:
Expedia Inc. recently provided the Bellevue real estate market with quite a blow, announcing plans to relocate following the purchase of a new campus. One city’s loss is another’s gain, as the company announced the acquisition of Amgen’s multi-building office property in Seattle.
The Puget Sound Business Journal notes this move may have a negative effect on Bellevue’s restaurants:
Expedia’s departure from Bellevue will be a blow to the many restaurants that have popped up around the company’s downtown campus. After all, tech employees do love their happy hour.
In addition to the 3,000 tech employees who will, presumably, now begin dining in Seattle’s restaurants, this move could make Seattle more attractive to such high-paid talent:
Expedia’s move to Seattle could encourage more developers to move to the city — something that will please tech companies across the region.
But the researchers quoted in the Seattle Times’ editorial will see nothing of this — they’ve already decided to focus elsewhere.
But, the subjects know they’ve been tossed into an experiment they never signed up for.
There were no business owner’s on the Mayor’s advisory committee, and no local business owner supports the law.
If “$15 not right NOW and not for everybody” is such a good deal, why the phase-in? Your own shining example of the economic powerhouse of Seatac shows everything to be rosy there (well, except for workers at the airport itself, who’s exempt). Their ordinance won by a 2% landslide (a whopping 77 vote margin) even though half of their massive electorate didn’t even bother to vote on it. What’s the holdup in puny Seattle? NOW means NOW. After all, a unanimous vote of the Seattle Politburo put this in place, everybody has to love it. It would no doubt win overwhelmingly at the polls. This isn’t any experiment, everybody knows exactly what’s going to happen.
If “$15 not right NOW and not for everybody” is such a good deal, why the phase-in?
Now, I can understand how someone who gets information on this topic only from this site, the Washington Policy Center, and the op-ed pages of anti-worker newspapers might think there were no negotiations or compromises, but that just shows the abject ignorance of such sources toward reality
Your own shining example of the economic powerhouse of Seatac…
Where not a single job has been shown to have been lost, despite the usual predictions of doom from the usual sources of such failed predictions. (Here’s a small hint: when the very employers who predicted layoffs are instead hiring, those predictions — and predictions based upon those predictions — were utterly worthless.)
Their ordinance won by a 2% landslide (a whopping 77 vote margin) even though half of their massive electorate didn’t even bother to vote on it.
If only it had received 59% of the vote, then you would accept its legitimacy — just like I-594.
What’s the holdup in puny Seattle?
By “puny,” you mean the largest and sturdiest economy in the state — the one adding thousands of jobs per year:
The Seattle metro area has posted 12% tech job growth over the past two years and 7.6% STEM growth, handily beating the performance of Silicon Valley. More important still to potential job-seekers, the Puget Sound regions has grown consistently in good times and bad, boasting a remarkable 43% increase in tech employment from 2001 through 2011 and an 18% expansion in STEM. Seattle weathered both recessions of the past decade better than most regions. The presence of such solid tech-oriented companies as Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing — and lower costs than the Bay Area — may have much to do with this.
After all, a unanimous vote of the Seattle Politburo put this in place, everybody has to love it.
Your seething contempt for our democratic form of self-government doesn’t really need any more emphasis. Trust me on this.
This isn’t any experiment, everybody knows exactly what’s going to happen.
You might want to tell that to the owners of this site, who keep describing this as an “experiment” with no known outcome. Your financial contributions to this site should have bought you credibility — that’s how capitalism works, right?
Eastside Sanity says
Utopia in minds of liberal madness……….