Seattle’s $15 minimum wage debate heats up; Jordan Royer article in Crosscut provides needed perspective

The Seattle City Council and the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee held a joint public hearing last night on the $15 minimum wage proposal. The Seattle Times has the story. It sounds like quite a show.

About 700 people, many wearing red T-shirts with “15” on the front, cheered calls to enact a pay increase in the city.

Give credit to a representative of one of Seattle’s iconic businesses for speaking an unpopular truth.

Jasmine Donovan, granddaughter of the founder of Seattle-based Dick’s Drive-In restaurants, said that if the minimum wage were raised to $15, the company’s labor costs would increase $1.5 million.

“Raising prices would have to be our first response,” she said, adding, “Sadly, some of our benefits would have to be on the table, including 100 percent employer-paid health insurance for those working more than 24 hours a week.”

Compensation decisions are best left to businesses to work out with their employees. The focus on the minimum wage to the exclusion of other benefits, bonuses, commissions and tips presents an incomplete picture.

In Crosscut today, Jordan Royer does an excellent job of reframing the debate. His article, “A $15 minimum wage won’t be anyone’s silver bullet,” should be required reading at Seattle City Hall. There’s not a wasted paragraph in it, but I’ll focus on his conclusion.

My hope is that we refocus on the larger, more effective strategy of growing jobs and job training; of connecting people to new careers and rebuilding the Northwest’s middle class. Because the minimum wage should not be the final wage for anybody.

It is meant to be that first rung of the ladder.

That’s the debate the city and state needs to have.