Video: Minimum-wage discussion @ West Seattle Chamber of Commerce

February 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

Next month, a new Seattle City Council committee starts hearings on income inequality, an issue that has been focused lately on potentially raising the minimum wage. The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce brought in a panel to discuss the issue at its lunch meeting today, and you can see that discussion in its entirety in our video, above. The panel, moderated by George Allen of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, included Janet Ali from Nucor Steel, Craig Dawson from Retail Lockbox, Matt Landers from the Greater Seattle Business Association, Andres Mantilla from CBE Strategic, and Josh McDonald of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance.

Questions included what participants see as the pros/cons of an increase. They also discussed the survey that went public on Wednesday, showing that two-thirds of likely voters polled in Seattle supported the $15 concept. (Here is the survey firm’s memo, shared by Working Wasington.) The Chamber also is circulating this online-survey link, in connection with other neighborhood business organizations around the city – it’s open until Friday afternoon, and you’re invited to take it, whether you’re an entrepreneur or employee.

20 Comments

  1. Finally, some level-headed talk about the impact of the $15/hr min wage. Small business owners had better wake up and get involved, because radicals are more interested in achieving some ideological victory than the practical consequences.

    Comment by G — 6:19 pm February 13, 2014 #

  2. Seattle, overwhelmingly in support of every good sounding bad idea ever. Hell-bent on putting small businesses out of business by raising prices (yes, this WILL happen) until people are forced to shop at huge corporate box stores because now that’s all they can afford. Yep, brilliant plan.

    Comment by Tuesday — 10:32 pm February 13, 2014 #

  3. YES!!! Finally, a public voice of reason on this debate. Almost every small business owner/employer I know opposes the $15 minwage proposal, but they are afraid to speak out for fear of being demonized by the press and social media. My friends who are local biz owners typically work 60+ hours/week, make close to the median income and run on a slim profit margin, and are constantly navigating the economic balance between paying for ethically sourced inventory, taking risks on hiring unskilled labor, giving merit raises to valuable employees, and providing affordable prices for customers. There is very little wiggle room. Forcing a $15 minwage regardless of skill level will increase barriers to workforce entry and disincentivize hard work in existing employees (when the money that would have been spent on their raise is forcibly redistributed to less skilled/less productive employees). Thank-you WS Chamber of Commerce for hosting this forum!

    Comment by Molly — 11:12 pm February 13, 2014 #

  4. If you call allowing people to earn enough money to buy food all month long an ‘ideological victory’ rather than a practical consequence, I think you should look in the mirror to see who the ideologue is.

    All the clams made by opponents oft he minimum wage, including those above, have been disproven not by theories or claims, but by the actual experience of other places that have raised the minimum wage. More money in the pockets of our neighbors means more money they can spend. And according to a study that came out yesterday, fewer health problems at the end of the month that result in emergency room visits, which (guess what?) cost us money.

    It will be hard for some business, but this is a win-win proposal if you actually look at the facts instead of fears.

    Comment by I guess i'm a radical — 8:01 am February 14, 2014 #

  5. Another point of view could be:

    With all due respect to the West Seattle Chamber, I have to say that Chambers of Commerce generally are rarely voices for reason; they are largely the shills for rapacious capitalism. The idea of an unfettered free market exerts a fog on civil discourse on nearly every topic of civic concern: development, labor, public interest and property.

    Some vocal business owners may feel that a legislative increase to the minimum wage would ruin them; that doesn’t mean they’re right.

    I hasten us to remember that we are citizens and community members first and not, as Chambers of Commerce would re-cast us, merely consumers.

    Comment by JAT — 8:38 am February 14, 2014 #

  6. Radical, I guess you are saying you would prefer business source their goods from the cheapest supplier rather than local and/or sustainable suppliers? Anything to get more money into the pockets of those with little or no marketable skills?
    .
    Nothing like this has ever been tried before. We are talking a 65% increase in the cost of some labor and only within the confines of the City of Seattle. Why would someone shop in Seattle if prices rise by any amount over just driving an extra block or two across the city line and get it for less? Not sure what economic model you are trying to follow, but I suspect it isn’t one based on reality.

    Comment by JP — 8:48 am February 14, 2014 #

  7. The first three comments appear to be written by the same person or three people with the same script from their Fox/Koch masters. Other message boards have boiler rooms of spambots that relay corporate propaganda in the guise of civil discourse but I know the WSB wouldn’t allow one email address to post with several names in an attempt to appear as multiple concerned parties on the same topic.

    Comment by thistle stairs — 9:35 am February 14, 2014 #

  8. Thistle, we watch as closely as we can, not just IPs but other aspects that we tend to have become somewhat good at detecting after eight years and 241,883 comments (OK, this is 241,884). Doesn’t make us foolproof. But the three to which you refer are longtime commenters here on a variety of issues. I don’t know them personally, that I know of, but they are definitely local and real – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:06 am February 14, 2014 #

  9. thistle stairs- why does criticism of liberal ideas equate to accusations of conspiracy? Really, there are always two sides (at least) to such arguments. I’m really tired of people instead of refuting a point of view logically, using smears against the other side.

    Believe it or not, the minimum wage issue is very complex- at what point does it harm employment? Particularly young people? There are lots of good points on both the pro and anti sides in the economics field – not every pro is a commie, not every anti is a facist.

    Comment by WestofJunction — 10:49 am February 14, 2014 #

  10. would be helpful/nice if commenters would use their real names; I’ve always posted via my real name and cannot understand the need for anonymity if you really want to be a community participant; so many of the comments get really nasty while hiding behind an anonymous name; I know wsblog does not require “real” names, but people certainly can voluntarily use their real name; why are 90% of the names on posts fake? what are people afraid of by using their real names? could they perhaps be more gracious, thoughtful, considerate if using real names?

    Comment by Diane — 12:00 pm February 14, 2014 #

  11. Nope. The “maybe if people use real names they’ll be nicer” theory has been disproven time and time again. Including on our Facebook page and others, home to some of the nastiest comments I’ve ever seen, luckily not too often. I understand that everybody may have a different line they draw when considering something “nasty.” Pointed disagreement is not necessarily nasty. On this issue, for example, trying to bring race/nationality into it (as did a comment that was held for moderation and not approved for publication) – THAT is nasty. – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 12:27 pm February 14, 2014 #

  12. @Diane, I’d prefer to remain anonymous because I’m a small business owner and I know that on issues like this (e.g. sick leave) people have used very nasty tactics to retaliate against businesses that did not share their point of view and spoke out about it.
    .
    Please note that most small businesses are in favor of having the entire community come together to address the issue of income inequality. I’m quite certain however that if $15/min wage went through there would be many unintended consequences that would actually hurt the very people it hoped to help (as is mentioned in this panel discussion: it is worth watching).
    .
    We are very lucky in Seattle (and especially West Seattle) to have so many independently owned businesses. While we already pay our employees close to $15/hr (note: we as owners make less than $15/hr) it wouldn’t make sense for us to pay them the same as a kid washing dishes in a restaurant, and there simply isn’t enough money being spent at our business to pay everyone $20/hr. There is a lot of goodwill in our neighborhood that keeps people shopping locally, but most people won’t be able to justify that if our prices are double what you would pay online.

    Comment by SmallBiz — 2:52 pm February 14, 2014 #

  13. @SmallBiz; thanks for your explanation about anonymity and for your thoughtful comment re the $15 min wage

    Comment by Diane — 6:08 pm February 14, 2014 #

  14. It is radical when you force your way into a what is probably a good relationship between an employer and employee.

    It is radical when you put the livelihood’s of some in jeopardy. It is radical when you appear to be unwilling to compromise and say it’s “my way or the highway.”

    It is radical when you do not account for the after-tax benefits that many in the low income bracket receive in the form of refunds. Do a few tax returns and get back to me.

    It is radical and frightening when some are afraid are afraid to speak up because they fear retribution.

    “Koch Masters?” Really? I was thinking of another country and another time.

    Y

    Comment by G — 7:37 pm February 14, 2014 #

  15. I can see both sides. I think there should be some business help, financial planning and a “scholarship” for businesses who are forced to pay their employees to the point that it looks like they’re not making a profit. The legislators need to legislate help on both ends.
    1) more money for employees and
    2) support (yes, even money) for business owners to keep afloat during this transition.
    .
    People next door are happy to take consumers looking for cheaper prices, but I cannot believe that if this flies in one area, next door employees won’t be next asking for $15.
    .
    Take a deep breath but definitely get stoic business owners the support they deserve for taking a risk to stay open during a transition.

    Comment by Miranda — 8:33 am February 15, 2014 #

  16. It’s easy for these people to demand $15.00. It’s not their money. It’s always other people’s money these Socialist/Progressive want to force people to pay. How about risking your own money and start a business, hire people and then come back and tell us how the $15.00/hour will work out for you. The unintended consequence is that business will cut the empolyee’s hours or lay-off people. The other scenario would be the business owners will have to work longer hours and in the worst case, close their doors if they can’t make money enough to cover the increases. How is that going to help anyone. No jobs,no money. How hard is that to understand. $15.00 x 0 = 0.

    Comment by MSW — 12:51 am February 16, 2014 #

  17. As reported in Sunday’s Seattle Times, venture-capitalist, Chip Hanauer, who is pouring money into the $15.00 an hour campaign, pays his employees $11.00 an hour. That seems a bit hypocritical to me. Maybe he should lead by example.

    Comment by phil dirt — 9:13 am February 16, 2014 #

  18. Increasing the minimum wage tends to reduce employee turnover and in the long run provide more proficient, efficient workers. Hiring and training new employees is very costly.

    Listening to several of the comments in the video, it appears a few of the business owners would benefit from some business consulting rather than juggling a relatively large number of people to fill a comparatively small number of FE’s. That’s assuming it’s not simply an attempt to dodge paying benefits.

    The Nucor model of having performance based bonus incentives on top of a minimal base pay is good when reasonably configured. It is also easily adjusted to make up for an increase in the base rate.

    Comment by JTB — 2:00 pm February 16, 2014 #

  19. Make $9 an hour, you are an anachronism, an enigma – worthless, unskilled, etc. Your boss hates you, and resents that you are there, with so few skills. In fact, you drive customers away. You drive good prospective new hires away. You would be fired, if possible, but would cost your boss way more to do that, in the long run. However, if you make $15 an hour, you have achieved something many aspire to but few achieve. You have high skills, obviously, have great customer service skills, have nice clothes, smell great, and get great training. Your boss really likes you. $15 an hour is a lot of money and a lot of thought has been put into figuring out that another $20 a day, makes all the difference! That buys a lot more food than $9 an hour. THAT is subsistence wages, not $15 an hour. Huge difference and you can just look at someone and tell, which category they are in. The smelly $9 an hour people, are killing this city and I’ve had enough! It’s so obvious.

    Comment by joe — 6:11 pm February 16, 2014 #

  20. Wow an idea even worse that Obamacare…only in Seattle

    Comment by M — 3:25 pm February 19, 2014 #

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