Two small business owners in Seattle are gathering signatures for a referendum that would put the mayor’s and City Council’s $15 minimum wage bill on the November ballot.
Only the referendum uses $18.13 an hour.
“The reason we decided on a $18 is because that’s what it actually is. When they talk about a $15 wage, that’s incorrect. The mayor’s ordinance is actually $18 in 10 years,” Kathrina Tugadi of Forward Seattle told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show.
The city’s current measure, which would take effect on April 1, 2015, includes a phase-in of the wage increase over several years, with a slower process for small businesses. The plan gives businesses with more than 500 employees nationally at least three years to phase in the increase. Those providing health insurance will have four years to complete the move. Smaller organizations will be given seven years.
It’s a timeline Forward Seattle said is based on incorrect information.
“We wanted to make sure the public was fully aware and we wanted to take the time to educate the public on exactly what this means for the city,” said Angela Cough, also of Forward Seattle. “We absolutely want them to vote no.”
They need 16,510 signatures from voters living in Seattle and they say an army of gatherers working under the deadline is not cheap. But Tugadi and Cough said the money spent is worth educating people about what will really happen to the local economy, small businesses and non-profits.
“There’s been a demonization of any sort of business that actually spoke up about this topic up until now, that it’s been more of an attack on greedy capitalists as opposed to hey, I’m just your neighbor,” said Cough.
Tugadi said she believes the real problem isn’t the minimum wage, recalling a friend whose rent just went up $1,000 per month.
“It doesn’t matter how much you make if rents are going to keep going up like that.” She thinks the issue is much bigger and it’s specific to each worker.
Cough said for her, the referendum is about the basic definition of minimum wage: the minimum amount businesses are obligated to pay you regardless of background and skills.
“As employers, we can always pay you more, and more often than not, a lot of us do,” she said. “I think maintaining that choice so that you can get the labor that you want – it makes sure that you have a profitable, good business model.”