Backers of a $15-an-hour minimum wage are calling for a city-wide boycott of fast-food restaurants across Seattle Thursday as they increase their push both locally and nationwide.
The "Boycott McPoverty" event comes on the heels of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's State of the City address Tuesday, where he reiterated his support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
While Seattle is talking about joining SeaTac with the nation's highest minimum wage, Washington Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan Del Bene are championing a $10.10-an-hour federal minimum wage. But Sage Wilson with Working Washington tells KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz show $10 just isn't enough to lift most people out of poverty or help the economy.
"When more people have more money, that's more customers for more businesses. Boosting wages at the bottom ends up building the economy for the middle because it creates a larger number of people who can spend money at restaurants."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report Tuesday saying increasing the minimum wage would boost wages for 16.5 million workers and lift 900,000 out of poverty. But it said the increase would also cause the loss of an estimated 500,000 low-wage jobs.
Wilson disputes those figures, and argues he's not anti-business.
"On a whole, productivity has gone far more than wages have," says Wilson. He adds that some estimates suggest if minimum wage had kept up since the ‘60s, it would now be closer to $18 or even $20 an hour.
Wilson contends that the problem isn't that wealth isn't being made - look at McDonald's, he says - the problem is it's not funneling down to the worker and out into the economy.
And he says it's clear businesses like McDonald's can easily absorb the wage increases. He points to franchises miles apart in Washington and Idaho that pay different wages, yet the Big Mac costs the same. Like the plastic bag ban, businesses make adjustments to maintain a profit, he says.
"Some of the business lobbyists arguments aren't giving business owners enough credit for their creativity. Those businesses adjust. Those businesses, the few that really depend on poverty wages, if those get replaced by businesses which give back to the community and support people with a decent living, I don't think that's so bad."
Wilson says we shouldn't be too concerned that businesses will flee to other states for a cheaper workforce. He says the businesses across the border will have to also raise their wages to stay competitive.
"It just becomes a great example to the rest of the state and country, as well, that things can change and we can take back the economy."