In November, voters in SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage for airport-related work and now activists are taking that fight to Seattle. The issue is gaining national traction as well, with Obama pushing for a federal minimum wage of $10.10 in his State of the Union speech last night. Seattle Times readers debate the merits and downsides of raising the minimum wage to $15 in Seattle:
My small business would also be adversely affected
Thank you Judith Gille for stating so eloquently an important point that is being missed in the $15 an hour minimum wage discussion: the unintended consequences to small businesses like hers and mine, local businesses that make Seattle a special place to live [“A neighborhood business can’t support a $15 minimum wage,” Opinion, Jan. 27].
I have written to the mayor and the City Council expressing my concerns that a sudden and dramatic increase in what is already the biggest cost for most small businesses could be disabling. Large corporations with Seattle storefronts already enjoy many advantages due to their tremendous buying power and greater access to capital. Those advantages would allow them to absorb more easily this kind of dramatic change. It is small businesses that would be the most affected.
I don’t think you will find a small Seattle employer who does not support living wages because so many of us work long hours for very low pay, and so many of us have missed paychecks so that our employees and our businesses could keep moving forward. The $15 an hour minimum wage movement is grounded in good intentions, but the reality of the impact this kind of sudden change would have on small business has not been thoroughly considered.
Judy Neldam, owner of Grateful Bread
Small businesses have nothing to fear
I don’t think small businesses would have to worry about a shortage of good employees if the minimum wage were raised to $15.
Look at the economy: Our city’s unemployment rate is still above 5 percent, and even college graduates (such as guest columnist Sandi Halimuddin) are struggling to find full-time work.
While it’s true that large businesses paying $15 an hour might steal some employees from lower-wage small businesses, they can’t employ everybody. And whenever one employee leaves, a flood of applicants will line up to replace them.
I’m sure small business owners like Judith Gille would have no trouble attracting competent, capable employees even if they pay less than $15 an hour.
Anthony Bencivengo, Seattle
Economics do not support a $15 minimum wage increase
Thanks for initiating the debate on a $15 Seattle minimum wage. What seemed lacking, though, is a discussion of the outcomes that economic price theory predicts for such an increase, particularly poignant when it’s a 61 percent increase.
Price theory predicts that increasing the minimum wage would decrease overall Seattle employment, most acutely by those whose wages would increase the most. This would disproportionately affect African Americans, whom Gerald Hankerson discusses in his guest column [“Raise wages to reduce racial income inequality,” Opinion, Jan. 25], as well as youths, women, immigrants and other minority community members. Is it acceptable to intentionally increase unemployment among them, particularly in light of their already disproportionately high unemployment?
If the answer is yes, we must recognize that when prices and wages reach a new equilibrium after the increase, we will be in almost the same place economically that we are now, except that the overall price level will be higher, also adversely affecting those living on fixed incomes. We would need to increase the city’s minimum wage again to achieve the same temporary effect as was achieved by raising it to $15.
This is not ideology. Price theory is as scientifically valid as the theory of evolution. I am highly skeptical of the knowledge, or motives, of the proponents of this wage increase, particularly when they claim to be economics professors.
Tom Franklin, Seattle
GOP doesn’t care about small business
I have a question for the citizens of Washington state: Has anyone ever heard a Republican spokesperson or elected official ever express concern or dismay about a mom-and-pop store being driven out of business by a big box operation? Big boxes, like Wal-Mart, pay their employees so poorly that sometimes the employees must seek public assistance to survive.
The notion that the Republican business and political elite give a flying fig about small businesses is laughable. Their decades-long failure to reform the antiquated B&O tax combined with their recent three-day sprint to kiss Boeing’s ring are proof of that. Most Democrats, need I add, are not much better.
It’s undeniable that putting more money in the hands of more people is going to boost the economy. They’re going to spend it on food, clothing and even high-quality mercantile goods.
Set an employee threshold for genuine small businesses, then enact a $15-an-hour minimum wage for Seattle, $12 statewide.
John Yackshaw, Shoreline
$15 is too high for entry-level positions in some industries
I applaud guest columnist Sandi Halimuddin for completing five internships during her undergrad [“College graduates need the minimum wage to rise,” Opinion, Jan. 25]. I think her passion and willingness to work for her desired career are admirable.
During her internships and years at the University of Washington I hope Halimuddin’s mentors made clear the troubles facing the journalism and media industry. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would not save this industry, or any other industry the market has turned against.
The decline in the journalism and media industry has been well documented over the past several years. The median national pay for journalists in 2012 was $17.83. With the trouble Halimuddin faced finding a paid position as a fresh graduate, I would expect raising the minimum wage to $15 would kill any remaining entry-level jobs.
The market creates incentives for workers to gain skills that are in demand. These incentives, which may include career changes, cannot exist if the wage is artificially set high above the market rate. I do not expect the world to become any less competitive, and setting a $15 minimum wage in Seattle would be a disservice to college graduates.
Matt Liedtke, Bellevue