Washington Wage Increase Has Unexpected Opponents


Washington State has made headlines for Seattle’s attempt to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, $7.75 over the National average. The span of the debate has seen many who oppose the raise, armed with convincing arguments. The majority who oppose the substantial raise are individual small business owners who worry about paying their workers a higher wage along with the rest of their bills. However, there are also service industry workers in Seattle, Washington, a class that should benefit financially from a wage increase, who adamantly oppose the increase.

Many service industry workers in Seattle do not earn a living wage, meaning in order to afford bills many workers need two jobs. Starbucks, the iconic, giant coffee corporation of Seattle only pays its employees $9.38 per hour, and tips are not very lucrative. On this wage employees must live with roommates and rely on some form of extra income to afford to live in Seattle. There is much debate about whether or not a wage increase would allow a business to consider tips as part of an employee’s earnings, which would help some employees, yet hurt others.

There are service industry employees on the opposite end of the wage spectrum who make up to $45 per hour on a weekend night serving at a popular restaurant in Seattle. These employees are adamantly against a wage increase to $15 for service industry employees who are allotted tips. This corner of the working class, making up the unexpected opponents in Washington’s wage increase battle, believe that tipped service industry workers should be given a smaller wage per hour because they make plenty of money in tips from customers.

Other states in the country allow businesses to account tips in wage earnings; employees within the service industry will often receive a check for $0 from employers because they made enough in tips for the business to claim that they are legally earning enough. Seattle’s wage debate is heavily considering allowing employees to take a tip credit against paid wages. If this were to happen, many businesses owners would allegedly be better off financially.

A major concern for small business owners of Seattle is whether or not doors would stay open due to the tight financial situations that are bound to ensue if the wage increase is enacted into law, and tips are not inclusive. Small business owners claim that they would have a hard time paying a higher wage without increasing their already industry leading prices. Others worry that they would have to cut down on staff or reduce hours of operation. Service industry employees do not want their hours cut, but most importantly they do not want to lose out on tips.

If Seattle restaurant patrons know that servers are making $15 per hour, no matter their serving abilities, many would not leave a substantial tip. This would lower wages for servers who are accustomed to receiving $45 per hour due to patrons who tip generously. This opposition is being heard loud and clear through featured articles in the Seattle Times and word-of-mouth throughout the city.

Seattle’s wage increase debate will be a game changer no matter the outcome. Washington’s unexpected opponents have opened up new discussions on what constitutes a fair wage increase, forcing thorough debates. Whether or not high-earning service industry workers will win the debate is yet to be determined.

By Courtney Heitter

Seattle Times
Seattle Times
US Dept of Labor

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