Last week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan to move the city toward a $15 minimum wage, which would be phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of business and whether workers receive tips or benefits in addition to salary.
The Seattle Times wrote in an editorial, “If Seattle must go to $15 — and that appears a political reality — there are elements to like in this deal. It includes significant phase-in time, allowing employers to adjust to higher costs, and it incentivizes businesses to contribute to health care, at least for some time.” And added, “But this should not be considered merely tinkering, but a re-engineering of the Seattle economy.”
Readers have sent in quite a few letters in response to this coverage with their own perspectives of the wage hike. If you’d like to add your voice, send your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s not being considered by supporters
When columnist Jerry Large asserts that Seattle is a step closer to equality because of reaching an agreement that must be approved by the City Council, he must have ignored several things [“Seattle off to promising start on plan to raise minimum wage,” Local News, May 4].
The increase in hourly wages could be whisked away in a heartbeat by higher rents, higher prices for Big Macs or higher prices at stores in low-income neighborhoods.
Equality in Seattle does not mean a thing for equality for 10,000 or so other places in the United States with slightly less liberal city council members.
There are very few highly desirable or even moderately desirable neighborhoods in King County, and a few thousand dollars more in take-home pay every year will make people not one inch closer to being able to afford a house in one of those neighborhoods.
If the cost of employing a person is higher than the revenue that person brings in, that person won’t be on the payroll for very long. People will lose jobs, and therefore be more unequal to others than before. Some people will get raise, other people will get substantial cuts in income.
Get set for higher inequality, Seattle. You deserve it.
Eric Tronsen, Seattle
Teenagers would need to move out of Seattle to find jobs
It would appear Seattle parents have between four and seven years to move to the suburbs so that they can teach their children the responsibility and value in obtaining a starter job.
From there, teenagers can learn upward mobility, competition, the value of education and skills. They will start their responsibility by having some extra income for clothes and possibly their first date. Of course, they would not afford a Seattle restaurant, but by then, many of the formerly good places in Seattle might have relocated as well.
And if those parents get on it early, they might even make a lot of money selling their single-family home to an apodment developer, in the rush to provide cheap housing to those newly minted $30,000-per-year lifers.
David Smukowski, Seattle
Minimum wage must be a living wage
On May 2, the day after the traditional International Workers’ Day, The Seattle Times ran a guest column, “Does increasing the minimum wage stimulate the economy?” written by Maxford Nelsen, a labor policy analyst at the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, a “small government” organization.
His answer: “Business operators should beware of activists trying to persuade them of the merits of a higher minimum wage.”
Totally absent from this analysis is the economic fact that the current minimum wage is a poverty wage. Poverty wages must be supplemented by a range of government support programs, programs paid for by all American taxpayers. Employers who pay poverty wages game the system by telling their poverty-wage employees how to access these programs, thus relying on the government — that is the rest of us — to help defray their labor costs.
The economic and human consequences of forcing millions of hardworking people to struggle needlessly and painfully in poverty are absolutely unacceptable to the rest of us taxpayers in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The minimum wage must be a living wage. That’s an American credo that promotes human dignity.
Elaine Phelps, Shoreline
The wage hike will cause business to move
Sunday’s editorial in The Seattle Times just begins to touch on the unintended consequences of the soon-to-be-phased-in $15 minimum wage, and who the real winners and losers are [“An economic gamble in Seattle as $15 minimum wage becomes reality,” Opinion, May 3].
The two real winners from this change will be the politicians and the businesses in Bellevue. It is no longer the sleepy little city or town on the other side of Lake Washington. Bellevue is now a vibrant city where you can do just about anything that you can do in Seattle. It’s just a short ride across the bridge of your choice with plenty of free parking and non-$15-minimum-wage-inflated prices.
There are several real losers, namely the people that supposedly will benefit from this increase. These people will have fewer job options when the small businesses go away. If they live in Seattle, their buying power will not increase because their newfound wealth will be absorbed by the coming price increases. Finally, anyone that thinks these new wages will enable them to now live in Seattle are kidding themselves. The same price increases that will effect the low-wage earners that now live in the city will also keep them out.
Seattle is quickly becoming an elitist city populated by two types of people. The very wealthy that can easily afford any price for goods and the very poor that can’t afford to move.
Robert Oberlander, Issaquah
Education is the solution, not a $15 wage
Stop the minimum-wage madness.
It is called a minimum wage for a reason: This is meant to be a beginning wage, or training wage, if you will. This is the starting point at which young people and people without skills learn to work for others and learn what employers expect in the workplace. Certain jobs are not meant to be lifelong careers.
Can anyone look back over the last 50 years and find a time when raising the minimum wage had a lasting effect on the wage earners’ quality of life. Minimum will be minimum forever.
If Seattle, or for that fact the United States, wants to really change lives and get people out of poverty, it should create a business tax with dedicated funds for education. All minimum-wage earners should be offered a two-year education leading to an associate degree or job training in one of the trades.
Education is the way out, not raising an imaginary wage that will only lead to false hopes.
Patrick Patterson, Seattle
I want to pay more
Congratulations to Mayor Ed Murray and his special committee for the progressive recommendation of increasing Seattle’s minimum wage to $15.
If prices for goods and services rise as a result, so be it. I do not want to continue to have my purchases subsidized by the lowest-paid Seattle workers.
Indeed, I think that firms with more than 250 workers should be on the faster track toward achieving the $15 goal. And I think the schedule for workers who get tips in small establishments must be reduced to fewer than seven long years. I urge the City Council to consider such amendments.
Phil Bereano, Seattle