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Push for $15 minimum wage in Seattle

Workers in Seattle and across the nation protested wage and working conditions at fast food restaurants, requesting a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

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Local News
4 hours ago

Cafe owner: I will ‘go out of business overnight’ if forced to pay $15 wage

IMG_2530SEATTLE — I-Miun Liu opened his Seattle coffee shop, Eastern Cafe, 10 months ago — just as the push started in the city to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“This is kind of my passion, to create spaces in the community, and work with people and customers,” Liu said Thursday.

He took out loans and maxed out his credit cards to open the cafe. But his business model never included raising wages to $15 an hour.

“Our daily payroll would be higher than what we bring in in daily sales,” said Liu. “We’d literally go out of business overnight.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray doesn’t have a finished plan for implementing $15 an hour, but expects minimum wage increases to be phased in for small businesses. Even if the increase is phased in, Liu will have to raise prices, and may still go out of business.

Many restaurant owners in the area said it’s inevitable that menu prices will go up with the minimum wage increase.

Supporters of $15 an hour say it’s needed to give workers around the city a livable wage. They also argue that the wage increases will give a larger population more money to spend at places like cafes.

“If the minimum was increased for everybody, you would see an increase in people going out and spending more money,” said Hanna Beaton, a bartender in Seattle. “Restaurant sales would also increase.”

Liu believes the profit margins are just too slim. He’s considering taking his passion out of Seattle and opening a café in another city such as Renton or Bellevue.

“I don’t take a paycheck from here at all,” he said, “and we’re barely making it.”

SEATTLE — Political analyst C.R. Douglas sat down Wednesday with Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant to discuss her push for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. Watch the interview here.

Local News

$15 minimum wage debate heats up in Seattle

SEATTLE — City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant — who has been pushing hard for a $15 minimum wage in the city of Seattle — has proposed phasing in the increase, with $11 an hour first. C.R. Douglas says her compromise makes passage of a law more likely.


Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE — Supporters of a $15 minimum wage have been rallying loudly for months. But on Wednesday, some restaurant owners were speaking out, saying higher wages will mean higher prices for meals.

Business owners say they are not just worried about cutting jobs and making payroll but they are also concerned about passing on higher prices to consumers and how that will affect their business in the long term.

“We are spelling out disaster for a lot of people,” said Rob Wilson, who owns the Diller Room.


Restaurant owner Tom Douglas says raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost him about $15 million more a year. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

Wilson said a $15 an hour wage means he would have to cut 20 percent of his staff.

Over at Palace Kitchen, owner Tom Douglas said his consumers will have to pick up the tab.

“Everything is going to be more expensive,” Douglas said.

The wage hike would cost Douglas, he said, an extra $5 million each year. That means at Palace Kitchen, a meal will be about $5 more.

“We are a little higher-priced restaurant than many. What it would average out at a Burger King, I don’t really know,” Douglas said.

But Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant — a vocal support of a $15 minimum wage — said, “It actually helps restaurants do better and, yes, prices go up, but look at the numbers. Prices go up 2 to 3% and wages went up by 25%.”

Sawant said there is enough wealth in Seattle to go around. She wants big businesses to be taxed more.

“If small businesses cannot pay, they should be subsidized,” Sawant said.

Sawant is proposing that nonprofits and small businesses pay $11 at first, giving them three years to reach $15.

But Wilson said it’s not that simple; he wants more of a dialogue with city leaders to come up with a better plan.

“We don’t feel like there is an open forum where we can talk about this reasonably,” Wilson said.

“I think every one of our Seattle City Council people, and our mayor, needs to run a business to figure out what makes sense. They are talking out of their consciousness and not out of reality,” Douglas said.

Douglas added that he would be in favor of phasing in a wage hike but he wants it to apply to everyone — not just small businesses.

“What I would hate to see is that people are losing their benefits to get their $15,” Douglas said.

Wilson said many people in his position are afraid to speak up and that is why he has started a weekly meeting for small business owners.

On Wednesday, Mayor Ed Murray released this statement.

“Our broad stakeholder process is on track and making good progress. There was always the potential for individuals to chart their own course as is their right, but I remain committed to a solution that is inclusive, thoughtful, lasting, and that minimizes unintended consequences to the greatest degree possible. I believe we are on target to deliver a proposal that raises the minimum wage while accomplishing these objectives.”

SEATTLE — Q13 FOX News political analyst C.R. Douglas says it is looking more likely that the proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage for those working in the city of Seattle will be put before voters on an election ballot. Watch the vide report.

SEATTLE — Hundreds of people packed a town hall meeting Wednesday night to discuss whether the state’s highest-in-the-nation $9.32 an hour minimum wage should be raised to $15 in the city of Seattle. The vast majority appeared to be in support of the proposal.

People stood out in the rain hours before the meeting even began, so they could tell the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee why the minimum wage in the city needs to be raised.  


People pack a Seattle town hall to listen and to express their views whether the minimum wage in the city should be raised to $15 an hour. (Photo: Tina Patel/KCPQ-TV)

“I’m basically unemployed right now, but I don’t think I’ve ever made more than $15 an hour,” Katie Nelson said. “I know people who are working two or three part-time jobs just trying to make ends meet. And the way rents are so high, you can easily be spending over half your income in rent every month.”

Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant campaigned on this issue and was elected to her office last fall. She said momentum is building to help the lowest wage workers in Seattle.

“I think a lot of progress has been made in terms of our efforts to build a mass movement on the ground.”

But not everyone agrees that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is the answer.

“I think it’s an idea that would cause more harm than good, to be honest,” said Max Nelson, a labor policy analyst with the Freedom Foundation. “If you force a government mandate on businesses, and they’re stuck trying to work their business model to comply with that, very often it’s the workers who end up getting laid off or having their hours reduced as a side-effect.”

Kathy Yasi runs a day care. She already pays her workers more than the minimum wage, but she said many are still struggling.

“One woman is married, and she still lives with her mom,” she said.

A $15 minimum wage would help her employees, Yasi said, so she’s supporting it even though it could hurt her bottom line.

“I’m a small business owner. Of course, it would be an adjustment,” she said. “But the thing is, I really believe we have to act from integrity, and I know I could figure out an answer.”

Sawant hopes other small business owners start to think like that.

“I appeal to them to join our struggle, so we can work together to find the best mechanism possible to ensure that no worker lives under 15 and we are able to help small businesses and government-funded human services,” Sawant said.

This is not the only chance the public will have to weigh in on this issue.  Council members and the mayor’s advisory committee are both planning other meetings and forums in the coming weeks. The mayor’s advisory committee hopes to make recommendations for legislation to the mayor by the end of April.

Local News

$15 minimum wage supporters demonstrate outside fast-food joints

SEATTLE — The demonstrators carrying signs for a $15-an-hour minimum wage hit the lunchtime crowds across the city Thursday, but most customers ignored their call for a boycott of fast-food restaurants and went on in to buy their burgers.

“If I’m hungry, I’m going to go eat, regardless,” said Eric, a customer at the McDonald’s near University Village.

mcpovertyFast-food workers demanding a $15 minimum wage in Seattle believe their movement is growing.

“It’s our turn to get what we deserve,” said Martina Phelps, a McDonald’s worker.

Alonna Monroe protested outside the Wendy’s in Lake City where she works. She admitted she’s nervous about what her employer may do, but she said she and other workers are struggling to make it on their current wage, so the risk is worth it.

“I’m in this for my family,” said Monroe. “The consequences could be bad, but then the outcome could be great.”

Protesters showed up at 25 fast food restaurants on Thursday, but the goal is for a $15 minimum wage citywide.

Anthony Anton, president of The Washington Restaurant Association, said there is support for a minimum wage increase over time, but to immediately go to $15 an hour “is causing an extreme amount of fear.”

The owner of a flower shop near one of the McDonald’s protests didn’t want to go on camera because she’s scared of retaliation, but said if the minimum wage goes to $15, “I’m going to close my shop. They (the protesters) don’t think about us, the small businesses. They just think about the money.”

Supporters of a $15 wage disagree, saying it will actually help the economy, because workers will have more money to spend at local businesses.

Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant campaigned on the issue and was part of the protests.

Mayor Ed Murray has put together a task force to figure out the best way to raise the minimum wage. But many people on both sides of the issue believe it will ultimately end up on a ballot before voters.