As of June 3, the Seattle minimum wage is the nation’s highest, at $15. Dave Meinert, a businessman in the city that brings us Boeing, the Seattle Mariners, and the University of Washington, was a member of the committee taxed with drafting the new wage policy. Meinert is in favor of the increase, but he thinks the process of getting the wage hike increased was a sham. According the Meinert, the Income Inequality Committee was supposed to be a collaborative study and debate platform with the purpose of creating a plan for the Seattle minimum wage increase. Instead of being driven by consensus and compromise, Meinert said, Labor and Mayor Ed Murray strong-armed the committee into adopting a policy that they had predetermined.
On Twitter and on his Facebook page, Meinert calls the process a charade. A well-known restauranteur in Seattle, Meinert wrote that he is disgusted with the process to the point that he is “done with local politics.”
While it is no shock that a businessman would criticize labor influences, the owner of some of Seattle’s most well-known dining establishments goes farther. Meinert alleges that the Income Inequality Committee, the City Council, and the city itself are essentially run by labor.
“And I hate to say it, but I’m not sure I can support candidates who also take money from SEIU, UFCW and the King County Labor Council. I’d rather give my money to the many small progressive non-profits they are willing to crush because they aren’t part of their unions so none of their concern,” Meinert penned on his Facebook page. “Be skeptical and cynical as you can be about politicians, and never doubt that they are more than willing to trade good policy, policy they believe in, for donations, votes, appearances over substance, and press,” he wrote.
In an interview with KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz, Meinert told Rantz he was willing to speak out boldly about what he perceives to be a lack of integrity in Seattle’s political process because he doesn’t care what people think about his criticism. He called the process to increase the Seattle minimum wage “long” and reported that there was no opportunity to present and debate alternatives. “The mayor put a plan forward that was, basically, labor’s plan and then told the committee to either accept it or get something worse,” Meinert wrote in his Faceboook post.
Calling politicians dirty is nothing new, but accusing specific individuals of actual wrong-doing is another matter. When pushed, Meinert refused to name individuals while insisting that all City Council members and the Mayor were scared to make policy decisions that go against the Labor agenda. According to Meinert, politicians are afraid of losing campaign contributions. “I know that as a fact, and they know that. And behind the scenes they admit that,” Meinert said of City Council members. Meinert acknowledged that Republicans have the same issues of balancing responsibility for creating sound public policy with the political realities of Big Business campaign donations.
The restauranteur characterized the Labor agenda as hoping to break apart franchise agreements for companies like McDonald’s and Subway. If Labor could unionize the fast food industry in Seattle, it would represent the 19,000 workers that make up Seattle’s fast food labor pool.
Seattle Minimum Wage May Ultimately Hurt Workers- What Meinert and other business leaders are saying is that the $15 an hour minimum wage will ultimately hurt workers. Meinert says he will just raise prices in his restaurants to cover the costs. He sees that without a tip credit and a training wage, the ultimate result of the Seattle minimum wage increase will be lower overall benefits packages to workers. He was frustrated that the business leaders on the Committee were never allowed to explain what the term “total compensation” meant to businesses and how it affects business decisions that employers make.
An employer who has to pay more in wages, may cut overtime hours or may decide to eliminate or reduce health care coverage.
“Employers look at the total cost of employing people,” writes Tim Worstall, opinion writer for Forbes and Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London. Worstall writes that employers aren’t concerned with the mix between wages and benefits. He says that employers will create a combination package of wages and benefits that will result in the same out-of-pocket costs for them. So if wages go up, suggests Worstall, then benefits will decrease.
Assunta Ng, writing for www.nwasianweekly.com, recounts a conversation with two employees of SeaTac, Seattle’s airport where the minimum wage was recently raised to $15. One employee reported she was not happy with the change. “I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she told Ng. Both women reported having to now pay for parking and not having access to free food, both of which were benefits before the wage hike.
Business Week reports that part of the impetus for the Seattle minimum wage increase is to be able to be the first progressive city to do so. San Francisco is another west coast city that is considering an increase to a $15 dollar minimum wage. Other cities will undoubtedly be watching, and they’ll have some time to do so. Seattle’s elaborate plan involves four different roll-outs and promises to be provide compliance challenges. Some of the city’s fast food franchises are already threatening to sue the city over the Seattle minimum wage.
By Kaley Perkins