Seattle pushing back on the $15 minimum wage

When Seattle passed their new city council ordinance mandating a staged increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, many local businesses – as well as observers across the nation – were left shaking their heads. The rules seemed to be unevenly applied, with some businesses having to comply but not others, as well has having a complete disregard for whether or not the job providing entities would be able to remain competitive and survive under the new rules. As Reuters reports, a coalition of business owners are now moving to exercise the power of public support to put the brakes on this thing before it goes off the tracks entirely.

Forward Seattle, which represents restaurants, retailers and other businesses, handed in just under 20,000 signatures to the Seattle City Clerk on Wednesday, more than the 16,510 needed to qualify for the November ballot, said group co-chair Angela Cough.

The proposal would ask Seattle voters to repeal a $15 minimum wage increase that was approved by a unanimous vote of the City Council last month and signed by Mayor Ed Murray. It is scheduled to go into effect over several years.

The move by city leaders marked the first time a major U.S. city has committed to such a high base level of pay. Seattle is among several cities leading the way in a national push by Democrats to raise minimum wages, and the plan in the Pacific Northwest city has drawn criticism from business groups.

Over at The American Thinker, Rick Moran asks a few pointed questions which the city council might want to consider.

Many voters believe all businesses are rich and don’t pay their employees $15 an hour because they’re greedy. They make no connection between the products sold by the business and the value of the labor that makes them.

Perhaps fast food restuarants can cut a few ads asking Seattle residents if they want to pay $8-9 for a Big Mac? Or do with far fewer sales clerks at retail outlets? Or see the price of convenience items skyrocket at gas stations and convenience stores?

The nice thing about the engine of free commerce is that no matter how much it gets shoved and constrained by the forces of government, it always seems to evolve and find a way to get on with business. The examples Rick lists are only a few of the possibilities. Fast food places – as well as other forms of retail outlets – may see these changes as the impetus to invest in more automation, reducing the number of workers and the long term costs associated with employing them. And once that investment has been made, there will be no turning back to the old way of doing things, even if the government mandated conditions improve. True, it will produce a few more well paying, higher tech jobs, but the entry level ones will largely disappear. (And based on a recent trip to Dunkin Donuts, I’m not sure how much worse a few robots could do anyway.)

Of course, with fewer people working, the pool of potential customers shrinks, so the employers can get by with fewer employees anyway. Other cost cutting measures will surely follow. In the end, I imagine that business will survive in some fashion, but it may be quite different than what the residents are used to. Or perhaps they can find a way to communicate these ideas to the voters in a way they can relate to.