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Jason Rantz

Small businesses push for $12.50 minimum wage in Seattle

Small business owners in Seattle are proposing their own minimum wage initiative they believe is more fair than the $15 the City Council approved last week.

Angela Cough, a Seattle bakery owner, and Kathrina Tugadi, owner of two Mexican restaurants on Lake City Way, joined the Jason Rantz Show to talk about their group, Forward Seattle.

The group is calling for a $12.50 minimum wage to be rolled out over five years. The first increase would take effect in January 2015 at a rate of $10.10. Cough said the provision would align the increases when most businesses experience their peak cash-flow months, which is in the middle of the summer.

"We're also asking the anniversary date shift from January 1 to July 1," Cough said.

Tugadi added there are no exceptions and all businesses, whether big or small, will adopt it at the same time. She said Mayor Murray's minimum wage proposal is too complicated.

"It treats businesses unfairly, the 500 employee mark is arbitrary, so many reasons," Tugadi said.

So why $12.50?

Cough said they got that number from Murray's commission that studied the effects of a higher minimum wage.

"It stated that is the wage that we could adopt that would have the minimum amount of adverse impact across the board," said Cough.

She said her employees make over $12 with tips, which would not be credited in Forward Seattle's plan.

"I absolutely believe there should be a tip credit, but that's a discussion for another time," Cough said. She thinks there should be specific legislation for restaurants down the road.

She and Tugadi said they tried to reach out to the Seattle City Council and the mayor about their proposal and attended several public meetings, but no one responded.

Cough believes many small businesses are worried about coming out to defend what they think is a fair minimum wage because they are afraid of negative publicity.

"Those things (Facebook and Twitter posts) from a small business perspective, whether we're counting on reasonable people reading them and disregarding them, those are the things that scare the heck out of a small business owner because we are absolutely at the whims of the public's opinion," Cough said.

She said she would love to just raise wages for people, but it's not a question about if people like the idea, but how you do it and who's going to pay for it.

"Ultimately, the people who pay for it are the consumers," Cough said.

Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Stephanie joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2008. She has built the site into a two-time National Edward R. Murrow Award winner (Best Radio Website 2010, 2012).
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