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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: minimum wage

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April 3, 2014 at 6:42 AM

$15 makes Seattle outlier compared with other cities that raised minimum wage

Nine city or county governments across the country have increased their minimum wage. A University of California, Berkeley study commissioned by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s income inequality committee concludes that a higher wage floor can increase productivity and reduce turnover, cushioning the macro-economic cost. Based on studies, it suggested companies could “adjust to higher…

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0 Comments | Topics: business, economy, minimum wage

March 28, 2014 at 6:25 AM

The ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ of a Seattle $15 minimum wage law on tipping

Washington is one of just seven states that does not allow a lower wage for tipped workers; if you give a tip, it’s on top of a wage that is at least $9.32 an hour. It’s a settled issue. The federal minimum tip wage is an appalling $2.13 an hour, meaning that waitress in Idaho who calls you “hon” really needs that 20 percent tip.

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray's minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

File photo from a March 5 public hearing before Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage committee at Town Hall. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

But the $15 minimum wage issue is re-stirring debate over whether it should come with a lower tip wage, or some acknowledgement that “total compensation” of workers includes tips. A state food service industry wage survey shows only chefs and managers made more than $15 an hour (including tips), but my bartender friends say that ridiculously low-balls tips.

The last panel of Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Symposium Thursday at Seattle University offered an entertaining exchange on the pros and cons of a tip law.  Eric Pravitz, an earnest nail salon co-owner who supports a minimum wage which counts tips, sat next to Saru Jayaman, a charismatic restaurant industry advocate who denounces tip wage laws as a “draconian, sexist system.” It was very Seattle: they clearly thought each other nuts, but in a friendly way.

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0 Comments | Topics: minimum wage, Seattle

March 24, 2014 at 6:23 AM

How a higher minimum wage would affect nonprofit supported-living providers

In a Sunday guest column, Sylvia Fuerstenberg wrote about how a higher minimum wage would affect a nonprofit like hers, which provides care for people and families with developmental disabilities. Fuerstenberg is the executive director of The Arc of King County. Her nonprofit receives funding from the state to provide a specific number…

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0 Comments | Topics: arc of king county, developmental disabilities, minimum wage

January 7, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Affordable housing in Seattle just as important as minimum wage

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray chose to make a $15 minimum wage for city employees the topic of his first official press conference last Friday, but he also reiterated that increasing wages alone won’t fix the city’s affordability problem.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conducts his first press conference. His main topic was implementing a $15/hour minimum pay for all City of Seattle employees. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Murray said education and housing are two other issues that must be dealt with if Seattle is to remain a place where people from diverse backgrounds and income levels can work and live.

He’s right. For now, let’s single out the housing part.

In case you missed it, The Seattle Times editorial pages featured a special section on affordable housing last month. Read those op-eds here. In November, our board called on city leaders to develop a coherent strategy to fix the housing shortage.

Since then, Seattle Times reporter Sanjay Bhatt reports rent increases may be stabilizing, but not by much. And most of the housing stock that’s available is out of reach for low and middle-wage workers. Remember, affordable housing generally means the cost of utilities and shelter should not exceed 30 percent of household income.

Here’s a link to the city’s wait list for subsidized housing, which is perennially long and can last years. Many lower-middle class workers don’t quality for assistance. Thousands more remain homeless, including hundreds of families with children.

If we know the city of Seattle needs more shelter and housing, how do we pay for it? New and existing developments rely heavily on federal funds, the Seattle Housing Levy (which is up for renewal in 2016) and the state’s Housing Trust Fund. The new mayor and City Council’s challenge is to develop policies that will stretch those limited dollars further.

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0 Comments | Topics: affordable housing, minimum wage, Seattle

December 6, 2013 at 2:02 PM

What state treasurer Jim McIntire’s study says about a $15 minimum wage

Jim McIntire, State Treasurer

James McIntire, State Treasurer

What is the likely effect of the rise in the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15, or some other increase? I was cleaning out my paper files preparatory to retirement, and under “Minimum Wage” was a study dated January 1991 from the University of Washington’s Northwest Policy Center. The principal investigator was James McIntire, who is now Washington state treasurer, the official responsible for floating state bond issues on Wall Street.

The study’s aim was to judge the effect of a 1968 state ballot measure that increased Washington’s minimum wage in two steps to $4.25 ($7.59 in today’s money) by January 1990. The effective minimum in Washington for most workers had been the federal minimum of $3.35.

This was a 27 percent increase over two years, which was fairly big, but less than half the 63 percent increase between the 2013 state minimum of $9.19 and the 2014 SeaTac minimum of $15.

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November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

South King County’s Road Map Project is a national anti-poverty model

Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs.  People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs. These points rest atop rigorous…

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0 Comments | Topics: children, Education, health care

November 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Do Seattle voters really care about a $15 minimum wage?

Mayor-Elect Ed Murray has promises to keep. This Seattle Times news story suggests the powerful Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 NW, which endorsed Murray over Mike McGinn, won’t let their man forget a SeaTac Prop 1-like citizen initiative could come to Seattle if leaders don’t take legislative action to increase the minimum wage to $15. The groundswell movement around socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant adds another voice to the debate over income inequality. (ICYMI: Read my colleague Bruce Ramsey’s column on the Sawant effect on Seattle liberal politics.)

But what about the rest of Seattle’s less-vocal voters? Between Oct. 14 and 16, consulting firm Strategies 360 released a survey based on 400 interviews among likely voters in Seattle.

The results indicate minimum wage as a standalone issue is not at the top of peoples’ agendas. Seattleites care more about the economy, jobs, education, public safety and road infrastructure. Here’s the chart:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.36.52 AM

Source: Strategies 360 Survey

View the complete survey on Strategies 360′s web site. With a 4.9 percent margin of error, the results also showed 48 percent of respondents think Seattle is heading in the right direction. Perceptions of the local economy are 73 percent positive — with 64 percent saying it’s in “good shape.”

Of course, none of those rosy numbers equaled votes for Mayor Mike McGinn. Voters found him to be a “more divisive figure” than Murray.

Here’s another telling visual:

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0 Comments | Topics: ed murray, elections, minimum wage

November 1, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Who a $15 minimum wage would devastate: James Shin of Quality Inn SeaTac

Quality Inn SeaTac (Photo courtesy of James Shin)

Quality Inn SeaTac (Photo courtesy of James Shin)

A war is being waged in SeaTac over the minimum wage. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Organizers then plan to bring the campaign to Seattle, where both mayoral candidates have already expressed support.

Supporters say it would help low-income people and families achieve a better life. That’s a bit simplistic. Poor people are not a monolithic group. I argued in a Wednesday blog post that it would devastate immigrant-owned businesses. (Our editorial board has also recommended a no vote in an editorial.)

James Shin is one of those immigrants. Shin, 64, owns the Quality Inn SeaTac. In 2011, he used his life savings to buy the 104-room hotel, and he would be required to pay his workers $15 an hour if Proposition 1 passes. It would, in fact, be a crippling financial blow to Shin.

He’s not the chief executive of a hotel chain. He owns one hotel. And he used to be poor.

Shin, a U.S. citizen, immigrated here from South Korea in 1975. He had a bachelor’s degree from a Korean university, but he spoke little English. His first job in the U.S.? Dishwasher. He made $2.25 an hour. In his next job he was a janitor. “When I moved to the U.S. I worked hard. Some people didn’t want to work weekends. I worked on weekends for overtime,” he said.

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0 Comments | Topics: 2013 elections, economy, minimum wage

October 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

How a $15 minimum wage would devastate immigrant businesses

SeaTac Prop 1

Gabriel Campanario / Seattle Times

Raising the minimum wage to this level would be devastating to immigrant-owned small businesses.

On Nov. 5, SeaTac will consider whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Efforts are under way to raise the same issue in Seattle. Mayor Mike McGinn, who is running for re-election, has already made it an issue in a zoning permit spat with Whole Foods in Seattle. In fact, he would like to raise it even higher in Seattle. His challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, has also indicated support for the $15 level. (Read both sides of the debate in Tuesday’s Pro/Con on Prop. 1. Our editorial board recommends a no vote on Proposition 1 in an editorial.)

And while the current ballot issue only affects SeaTac, the next stop for the minimum-wage campaign is Seattle.

Supporters of the $15 campaign say it would help low-income people and families working in these jobs. That presumes poor people are a monolithic group, all of whom want to work those jobs for the rest of their lives.

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0 Comments | Topics: economy, immigration, millennials

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