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Legislating a $15 minimum wage turns out not to be that simple

In this March 15, 2014, file photo people march during a rally to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle. Seattle backers the minimum wage hike that would be the highest in the nation, are not slowing down after an election season last fall. (AP Photo/, Joshua Trujillo, File)

Seattle has become the latest battleground for the $15 minimum wage debate, and the mayor’s task force finds itself grappling with all sort of complications.

Complication #1: Just how do you calculate what a person’s wage is?

Do you include just the per hour rate? Or in the case of restaurant workers do you include tips? What about health benefits? How about the 401K match?

The supporters of the $15 wage idea say absolutely not.

And I can see why, they’ll put in all this work and then it turns out they discover everybody’s already getting the minimum wage! All we had to do was change how we calculated it.

But in the process the debate had revealed some inconvenient truths. In particular, are second thoughts among some of the workers who you’d think would be rabid supporters, like restaurant workers.

Servers at non-fast food restaurants, have been revealing in op-eds and blogs that they’re making around $23 an hour under the current system, where customers assume they’re underpaid and therefore feel guilted into generous tips.

It’s certainly not Wall Street money but it is far above minimum wage.

And then there are the non-profit organizations whose boards of directors believe in social justice and sympathize with a higher minimum wage but who’ve been looking at the balance sheet and realize they’d have to cut staff – or raise significantly more money if their ideals become law.

So what to do? Jump in with both feet and accept the real world consequences? Or call in the press and announce the good news, that everyone’s been making $15 an hour all along and just didn’t realize it.

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