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Seattle’s minimum wage supporters report ‘sky remains aloft’

Businesses are being called out for spreading fear over Seattle's minimum wage law.

Businesses are being called out for spreading fear over Seattle’s minimum wage law.

Despite the “dire predictions” by some business owners that the city would collapse, Working Washington says everything is still fine.

“The sky remains aloft,” a post by the organization reads. The idea that Seattle would become an “economic wasteland” due to the minimum wage law is likened to Chicken Little’s prediction that the sky is falling.

In the past year, many of the same people who predicted businesses would be hurt by the law are now hiring and even expanding, according to Working Washington spokesperson Sage Wilson.

“Political commentators, economists, and other self-appointed experts” said the law would increase unemployment and small businesses would close, according to Working Washington.

Related: Seattle law creating ‘cutthroat’ environment for minimum wage jobs

The businesses, for example, that feared the law are now reporting the following (according to Working Washington): Liberty Bar, which said independent businesses will close, is opening a second bar; Lam’s Seafood Market said the law would be devastating, but is now expanding its parking lot; Holiday Inn Express said it was afraid of the minimum wage, but is now hiring; Poppy said $15 without a top would jeopardize business, but is now opening a second restaurant. More statements from the business can be seen on the organization’s website.

Working Washington isn’t try to call anyone a liar, Wilson said. What is being highlighted are statements made about short-term impacts of the minimum wage law that have not come to fruition.

“We think that’s important for people to realize,” Wilson added.

For the people who live in, or travel to Seattle, Wilson said it’s obvious businesses aren’t shutting their doors as originally feared. However, the people outside the city hearing about the law, might only be hearing all the negative opinions. That could hurt efforts of raising wages elsewhere.

“We thought it was pretty valuable to look at what is happening and what they said would happen,” Wilson said.

Working Washington suggests people no longer treat the “threats” by businesses as credible.

The higher wage requirement went into effect April 1. It was signed into law about a year ago. The new minimum wage is to be phased in over time to reach $15 per hour. Currently, it is around $11. According to Working Washington, there hasn’t been enough time for businesses to see the benefit of people earning higher wages.

But if there hasn’t been enough time to see the benefit, has there been enough time to see the negative effects?

The wage law allows businesses to phase in higher pay. That means it could take time to see a real impact.

One of the biggest concerns from long-time economist Peter Nickerson is that there will be more people applying for traditionally low-paying jobs. That means less-qualified people who rely on jobs such as dish washing, may be in competition with more people.

Smaller businesses will have seven years to phase in the higher wages, which will include consideration for tips and healthcare costs.

Small restaurants, for example, are going to have a tough time paying employees, Nickerson said.

“These small restaurants can’t just raise prices to pay their employees,” he said.

Nickerson said he expects jobs to be cut and owners to find new ways to operate with fewer people. Businesses are profit-focused, he said, and they will work to continue to be that way.

Wilson didn’t deny the fact that things in Seattle could change over time.

“I’m not going to pretend that over the next 25 years things are going to be great,” he said.

While Seattle continues to figure out its minimum wage law, Tacoma is preparing for its own wage changes. A $15 minimum wage is too high, according to Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, which is why the city has created a task force to figure out the best path to higher wages. She told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Seattle may have jumped the gun.

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