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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Interview with a Small-Business Owner Making Less Than Minimum Wage at His Small Business

Posted by on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 4:29 PM

STUMPTOWN COFFEE AT CINTLI Served in a mug like this
  • STUMPTOWN COFFEE AT CINTLI Served in a mug like this.

Three or four weeks ago, I was getting coffee in my favorite new place, Cintli, a coffee shop that's always made me feel like I'm on vacation. It could be dumping rain outside but as soon as I got inside Cintli, with its orange and pink and yellow walls, I felt like I'd been transported to Mexico. Given the weather, I've been going there a lot.

On this particular day a couple weeks ago I asked the nice guy behind the counter if the owner was around. This shop is right near my apartment and I'd fallen in love with the place. He was one of the owners, the guy behind the counter said. His name was Rafael Sanchez and he handled operations; his business partner, who sold Latin American folk art at Cintli as well as at Pike Place Market, handled the creative side. I told him how much I loved the place. "We make sure we have unique drinks that you can't get anywhere else," he said. "And we put effort into making sure it's quality: We use beans from Stumptown, we get creative with drinks. And the ambience. The colors. I don't think there's a more colorful place to have coffee in Seattle."

CINTLI ON THE RIGHT Subway on the left.
  • CINTLI ON THE RIGHT Subway on the left. Just past Subway is an OfficeMax.

Cintli's location: right between an American Apparel and a Subway. The other most recent addition to the block? An OfficeMax. I don't like to support chain stores; the whole reason I moved to a city was to get away from that shit. Sanchez told me he got his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Washington, followed by a master's degree in business from Seattle University, and then went to work for Microsoft, but it wasn't satisfying because he "always loved the idea of small businesses. We've somehow taken a turn in this country from a small-business economy to cookie-cutter corporate type stuff, and I don't enjoy it."

I asked him how he was able to compete on a block that's rapidly becoming chain-store central, and he admitted they weren't doing well on that front. We talked about the OfficeMax. "You have these new developments, they're really pretty, but the rents are outrageous. The only ones that can afford that rent are essentially corporate money—you have chain stores or big investment banks behind them that can fund things for three, four, five years." When Cintli opened a little less than a year ago, he said, Sanchez and his business partner took out a "small loan from the bank and prayed to God that it worked." But after a year they were still in debt, and the changes they were making to the place—"we want this to be a coffee shop, not a retail store, and people have gotten mixed messages, so we're trying to refine that a bit more"—weren't bringing in new business fast enough.

When we talked, Sanchez he had yet to draw a paycheck from Cintli that he could live on, even though he was working there full time. So he had a second job at Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help, a nonprofit that just so happens to help "low-income individuals, women, and minority populations" start small businesses. So it's not like Sanchez doesn't know what he's doing. Education? Check. Business contacts? Check. Experience? Check. A prime location for a coffee shop? Check. And yet he was struggling just to pay the few employees he did have, much less pay himself.

When I asked what would happen if the minimum wage went up, his face fell. "I would love to be able to pay even more, but the numbers just don't add up," he said. "I support a fair wage, a living wage, a decent wage people can live off of, but the numbers just don't add up. We're barely making it here as a small business. To have that kind of floor on wages, it would just kill us. Without question."

Why? "We're using a lot of bandaids at the moment. We have had a reserve fund from the loan, but as you lose money, that reserve fund gets smaller and smaller and smaller. At the point you don't have too much of that money left, you start prioritizing your bills. So it's plug one hole, try to plug another, and try to get around the bend to where we're breaking even."

At the time of our conversation, Cintli had been open almost a year, and they'd yet to break even. They weren't even close to breaking even.

What about the 15 Now argument that raising wages will mean more people have money to spend? Wouldn't that mean better sales in his coffee shop? "Ideally, yes. But is it real? That's kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. Yeah, if you pay people more, they are going to spend more, but what happens to the business in the meantime? If a business is basically losing money, and you increase their cost, they're going to lose money at a faster rate. Our goal is to get enough people in the door to cover our costs. Four out of five businesses close in the first two years. And the bottom line is, if you run out of money in the bank to pay the bills, we just have to close the door. We can't pay employees, we can't pay our suppliers—we don't have a business anymore."

And he was skeptical—given the very real troubles people are having paying rent, paying for health insurance, paying for student loans—that low-wage workers, if given more money, would spend it on coffee. "Why do people need more money? It's not so they can spend more money on booze and partying. It's to pay their student loans back. It's to pay their $200 health insurance payment because their job doesn't pay it. It's because they don't make enough to pay their rent. Most people are living in a deficit personally—that's just a statistic. In reality, these are things people need and in a more equitable society we would have arranged things to provide what people need. In this 'everyone for himself' society, that doesn't work anymore."

"All these budgetary strains that we're having are falling on the backs of the people work hardest and earn the least," he said. "Because we're not making money off this"—meaning he and his business partner—"and we have to pay our bills, we have to get second jobs and work and that takes time away from this business. And it hurts this business ultimately because it neglects the business. If you factor in all the time we've put in this business..." he said, and then went quiet, struggling to put it into words. "Let's just say we broke even and my business partner and I each made 1,000 a month, as an example. We work 40 hours a week on the business, each. So divide 1,000 by 160 hours, that's less than minimum wage."

What was he thinking he'd do if they kept on not breaking even? "Me personally? I have nothing else. I'm walking on this tight rope. If the wind goes this way, I'm bankrupt."

The conversation went back to 15 Now and he said, "The root problem isn't that workers aren't making $15. It's that people aren't able to afford basic things like health care, rent, groceries. Historically it has been proven, any time the government tries to intrude with price ceilings, price floors, they end up just fucking it all up. I know the intention is well-meaning with this effort, but it doesn't help employees, it doesn't help small businesses. The only ones it helps are corporate businesses, corporate chains—they're the only ones who can afford it. You have fewer businesses and those fewer businesses get bigger and bigger. A lot more Starbucks, a lot more Subway, a lot more chain things—and a lot less variety... I question the motives of the $15-an-hour group. What will that accomplish, really? Is it a political move to get popular support? Everyone goes: Oh, my pay will go up 60 percent. Will it really? Because you're going to have a harder time finding a job. Sure you can get a job at Subway, but they're not going to give you health care, it's going to suck, your pee breaks are going to be counted, you're going to get crappy, long shifts, if you go a minute over your 10-minute break you might get fired, but yeah, you'll get your $15 an hour."

In other words, 15 Now is "an over-simplication of a complex problem," said the man with the economics degree and the master's in business. "We want the magic bullet. That's the kind of society we are. They're complex situations. You can't just say: 'Oh, this one thing is going to fix it.' You have to analyze the situation and figure out what's the right combination of things. Not one thing is responsible for the problem, and not one thing is going to fix it."

And he said, "For a business community to stay organic, if you don't want the monoculture of corporate business, you have to create an environment. If you want an organic garden, you have to have a rich, supportive soil that can sustain itself. But if you just sort of plow through the field and use one type of seed and use fertilizers, yeah, you can do that, but you'll have a monoculture."

In the weeks after our conversation, I tried checking in with the monoculture—that Subway next door—to get that franchise owner's take on all of this. I have been meaning to write this post for weeks and the only thing that was stalling me was that I wanted to contrast Sanchez's story with the story of whomever owns that Subway. But guess what? The owner of Subway is not present in his business like Sanchez was. Every single time I've visited Subway in the last month, the owner hasn't been around. I've asked the employees when the owner will be around, and then I've shown up at the time they said to come, and he's never been there. So I've yet to get Subway's take on this, try as I might.

Then last week I was walking by Cintli and saw this sign:


Another small business bites the dust. The only coffee shop in the city that felt like an instant vacation is gone. A few days ago I emailed Sanchez to tell him how sad I was that his coffee shop was gone, and to follow up on that conversation we had (we only had one in-depth conversation), and to ask him if he'd like to write an editorial as part of The Stranger's series of editorials about minimum wage, but I haven't heard anything. A lot of people are deeply suspicious of business owners who say they can't raise wages, assuming that business owners, as a block of people, are somehow inherently greedy. That has not been my experience. My grandpa was a small-business owner. My brother is a small-business owner. My mom is a small-business owner. I see it more the way Sanchez sees it: The deck is stacked against small business owners. As Anna has written, the enemy here is the corporate monoculture, not small coffee shops like Cintli. Maybe you don't care that Cintli is gone. Well, I do. Maybe you think all small businesses should go away if they can't hack it. If so, maybe you should move to the suburbs? Lots of Subways and Starbuckses out there that can absorb gigantic cost increases overnight. The big banks, the big chains, they are going to have the run of this city—even more so than they do now, and they already do now—if we don't listen to voices like Sanchez's.

I was telling Sanchez about my mom's house getting foreclosed on in 2009 (she ran a daycare in California, the parents of the kids in her daycare lost their jobs and didn't need daycare anymore, and her two other side jobs didn't cover expenses). I told him how much it pissed me off that when my mom fucks up, they take her house away, but when the big banks who gave her that loan in the first place fuck up, they get bailed out. (And not just bailed out—they all get bonuses!) Sanchez said it was "the fiasco back in 2008" that inspired him to get out of corporate culture. He was working for a Microsoft contractor at the time. "That's when I decided, you know what, I'm out of this thing. I was in shock that we didn't have a civil war when that happened. The big banks pull some strings, they crash the economy, they pay executives bonuses for crashing the economy, and now the big banks are even bigger. I'm baffled how we just let that fly. The very powerful people at the top—they have the government in their pocket."

But the little guys? Not so much.


Comments (107) RSS

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Geocrackr 2
So now you're stooping to tying the minimum wage issue to the sad story of a business that failed for reasons that had nothing to do with the minimum wage? Fuck you. No, seriously - fuck you.
Posted by Geocrackr on April 3, 2014 at 4:43 PM · Report this
Yeah, this article is complete bullshit. The business was already failing. If the owner can't even pay himself, he's not going to do well by his employees no matter what limits the city sets.
Posted by unpaid reader on April 3, 2014 at 4:51 PM · Report this
AlaskanWayViaducks 4
We should have a lower minimum wage for businesses that Christopher likes. What would have been low enough to keep this place in business. $5? $3?

Clearly if we don't lower the minimum wage to $3 per hour for businesses that Christopher likes we are just resigning ourselves to a city where Chase, Subway, and Office Max are the only businesses that can survive.
Posted by AlaskanWayViaducks on April 3, 2014 at 4:53 PM · Report this
Cue the angry mob...
Posted by Senor Guy on April 3, 2014 at 4:58 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 6

So what I get from the Stranger comments on the MW is this:

If a business is successful and makes a big profit, they are "the evil 1%"

If a business isn't as successful and doesn't make much profit. "screw them! They suck at running a business."

Damned if they don't, damned if they do.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 5:00 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 7

And its always nice to see so many "tolerant liberals" cursing this Latino man and his small business.

Behind every white liberal socialist is a racist prick just waiting to come out.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 5:04 PM · Report this
theophrastus 8
@i think they're self-cue'ing (if not queuing)

the argument of this posting does seem to be of the form:
if an example can be found of someone who makes by the sweat of her or his own brow less than the proposed minimum wage, then the proposed minimum wage increment is somehow inappropriate. and (if so) then i hollar:specious sir! specious, up your codpiece.
Posted by theophrastus on April 3, 2014 at 5:04 PM · Report this
seatackled 9
I bet I know what could have helped this coffee shop survive. A review from a local publication such as The Stranger six months ago, instead of all these reviews of upscale restaurants with local celebrity chefs.
Posted by seatackled on April 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM · Report this
So workers should starve because business owners' business plans don't figure in living wages for their employees? Whose idea was it to go into business, anyway? Can't have it both ways. If you can't run your business AND pay people wages they can live on, you should be doing something else for a living--same as if you can't run your business without polluting, discriminating, or any other restriction we put on business for the greater good of people other than the business owners.
Posted by maddogm13 on April 3, 2014 at 5:27 PM · Report this
The story here is not that the minimum wage will kill jobs. It's that running a small business is hard, and many of them don't make it.

But the most business savvy ones (and perhaps the ones most fortunate to find just the right niche) do make it.

If the minimum wage goes up, ALL the coffee shops -- including Cintli's competitors -- will pay higher salaries, and nearly all of them will slightly raise prices. Then the people who want expensive coffee will pay a bit more. The business owners that learn to operate in the new environment will succeed, and will continue to employ people, and things will be pretty much the same -- except that the lowest earning employees will have a little more financial security, which is the whole point.
Posted by Moag on April 3, 2014 at 5:31 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 12
And those same higher prices you just mentioned will destroy what "little added security" those low wage workers find themselves with. That's the point.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Hernandez 13
Here's the deal: there are small businesses in this city that are run by good, well-meaning and inspired people like Rafael Sanchez, that are barely staying afloat. When we pass a large minimum wage increase, those particular small businesses will die. Full stop.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: is it worth sacrificing the small businesses of folks like Rafael Sanchez in order to help 100,000 working people make something much closer to a living wage? I mean, it sucks that it has to be a zero sum game, but that problem is much bigger than Seattle, and it shouldn't prevent us from making a difference where we can, in our city.

And it's funny how conservatives suddenly don't trust the vaunted American entrepreneurial spirit if a $15/hour minimum wage is passed. What happened to your faith in good ol' capitalism? There's a lot of money to be made in this city through unique, niche businesses, and someone will find a way to make it. Will there be an uncertain transition time before that happens? Probably. But it will happen.

For the record, I think that what Sanchez said about society's failure to be equitable is 100% correct. I just don't think we use that as a reason to stop working toward something better right here at home.
Posted by Hernandez on April 3, 2014 at 5:42 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 14

How much is "enough to live on"? It is a different number per person. A single adult has a different "living wage" than a single parent with three kids.

And according to UW, a living wage in Seattle is 10.62/hour as of 2011. Source:…

That was three years ago, so lets just say it's 11/hour. How the hell do you get from that to 15/hour?
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Thank you, Christopher. It's rare to read a piece that so clearly outlines the daily struggles of running a small business. Well done.

Rafael Sanchez is a smart man & it is so sad that we won't have his business to patronize on Broadway. It was a much needed indie spot that had great service and great product. Closing a business is a heartbreaker. Best of luck to him, Bento & the staff.
Posted by M. Wells on April 3, 2014 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Two things about this. First, this was clearly a poorly designed business. I knew the place, had entered once or twice, and just now found out that it was supposed to be a cafe that also sold handicrafts, rather than the other way around.

Second, about the "instant vacation" part, this place always irked me because it was not about Latin American culture, but about Latin American kitsch stereotypes. This is not how Latin America looks or feels to anyone, other than the tourist who goes there in search of "the exotic".

And on the $15/hour thing, did this guy just say that government intervention and regulation of markets are there to benefit the big businesses? I mean, did he even pay attention at what caused the crisis? This reads like a Tea Party manifesto.
Posted by Ailurus on April 3, 2014 at 5:51 PM · Report this

The problem with your logic is multi-faceted.

First - you're basically saying "don't run a business. Period" because most, if not all business, start in the red for years. But some, and it's a tiny minority, are able to punch through and thrive. Guess what happens when a business thrives? People make money. Making money is good. But it takes a risk and typically humble beginnings to get there.

Second - This article isn't a woe-is-me, really. It is a reflection of the situation thousands of businesses are in: most (like the aforementioned point) struggle. They may not struggle forever. Some will simply close (as in this case), some will get absorbed, some will stabilize and make money. Considering how precarious many businesses are in, changing the environment in which the businesses operate so drastically will have very severe fiscal effects. This is bad. Buying power and increased competition for work is a whole different point.

Third - and this is a really irritating theme - which is worse: somebody who has a job that pays poorly or no job at all? You'd be a fool to think the latter.

Fourth - Why are people, such as yourself, so quick to condemn people for trying to start a business? Sure, they should assume the risk, but we should appreciate that people are trying to take a risk to start a business. Otherwise we have fewer jobs (see point above).

Fifth - Why should people be required to be paid to live in Seattle? Myself and over 200,000 folks commute to Seattle because, in large part (but not universally) Seattle is too bloody expensive to live in.
Posted by tennisballmilk on April 3, 2014 at 5:54 PM · Report this
fletc3her 18
Many small businesses can only persist by enslaving their owners, but they will go out of business eventually with or without a minimum wage increase.
Posted by fletc3her on April 3, 2014 at 5:55 PM · Report this
"Fuck him."

"Fuck you. No, seriously - fuck you."

"Yeah, this article is complete bullshit."

Working hard to win hearts and minds, eh? With attitudes and reasoning like that, no wonder you are all making minimum wage and it will be no surprise that--coupled with hordes of people with the same exact attitudes--this falls on its face.
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 5:56 PM · Report this
@10 "So workers should starve because business owners' business plans don't figure in living wages for their employees?"

WHO is starving? Yay, hyperbole!
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 5:57 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 22

Speaking of faulty logic (yours), why not mandate that commercial landlords not increase rents by more than ___ percent per year? Or, hell, apply the same limits to increased rents as are applied to residential leases, any increase over 10 percent requires a longer notification period.

Are you aware of how many small businesses in Seattle have been driven out by rising rents or new development? Mr. Spot's gone. B&O Espresso gone. The Viking gone. And those are just the most beloved examples. There have been several failed businesses in the former Mr. Spot location over the past several years.

If the government guarantees small businesses a cheap labor pool, then why not cheap rent?
Posted by keshmeshi on April 3, 2014 at 5:59 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 23

I make almost double minimum wage, asshole.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 3, 2014 at 6:00 PM · Report this
24 appears that many are now starting to see the reality past the propaganda and parroted talking-points of so many here who are without the education and knowledge shown here by the owner of Cintli.

He was an expert, and here you have people not understanding the basic mechanisms of being in business. That first person, the "No, seriously - fuck you." person? That person simply cannot comprehend your point, which to me was that even good businesses run by good people will have a tough time in business in general, must LESS if they must now afford this ill-considered rise in the MW.

I feel terrible for this guy. I know how hard it is to find the courage to sign a lease, to fix up a space. I know how scary it is to have to think about letting employees go - those employees who rely upon you for their well-being.

Thanks for this story. I'm sorry that it's an abject lesson for so many on the back of a fellow who sounds like a smart, accomplished, good person.
Posted by I'm Cool on April 3, 2014 at 6:11 PM · Report this
@19, congrats! Did I reference something you said? Did I mention you? Or are you just trying to prove that people that make more than minimum wage can sound like an idiot too?
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 6:19 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 27

You said "you are all". How else was that to be interpreted? Why are you playing coy at being a dipshit?
Posted by keshmeshi on April 3, 2014 at 6:25 PM · Report this
@24 Expert? Seriously, how was he an expert if his business barely looked like a cafe? Just now did I find out that this place was a cafe, not a place selling handicrafts with a coffee machine in the back. Even more, I always thought the place was called "Latin Folklore".
Posted by Ailurus on April 3, 2014 at 6:26 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 29
Christopher, did you ever ask this guy if he had any employees? Serious question. If they had very little business and he and his business partner were putting in 80 hours/week total, why would they need to hire anyone else?
Posted by keshmeshi on April 3, 2014 at 6:31 PM · Report this
Baconcat 30
"See! This will kill jobs! How can you read this and support a job-killing minimum wage increase?"

"A low wage is better than no wage!"

Recentering the whole debate around business and casting the poor and struggling back into the shadows is shameful, but this is how these things play out. Business will calmly make their case to the media -- the working poor don't have time -- and in turn papers and blogs will churn out stories about how job-killing regulation is harming real down home folks out there. You'll get profiles of business owners that take up pages, but stories about the real working poor, the ones that say they need this wage increase? Those are nowhere to be found.

It's interesting that progressives, liberals and moderate democrats will heap scorn on republicans, but when it comes to it many will jump when told to jump by people whose bottom line is at risk. They'll be coached into the kind of narrative methods work best, what type of business story works best (unique, quirky shop? Gold! Struggling owner? Gold!), and how best to counteract any implication that the system is rotten inside and out by saying that the current system is better than any theoretical system in the near future ("you don't want box stores, do you?").

Thing is, though, there is increasingly no honest debate going on. Folks ask: why are proponents of $15NOW so loud? Because of stuff like this. It's the shameless promotion of pro-business/free market narratives that drown out the voices of every day people. It's broad brush suggestions that maybe people make enough already, maybe they should move out of Seattle, maybe they aren't good with money or maybe the problem just isn't so bad right now. These sorts of suggestions show up more than the real stories of the working poor. And that's a shame. That's why $15NOW is getting loud, there are real stories purposely being drowned out.

Sure, it's sad that a business closed, but businesses close every day. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, outside of the firewall being built by those sympathetic to efforts to undermine the push to a $15/hr wage, there are people living and dying in this system. 40%+ of people of color, 70% of native americans railroaded into low wage jobs, 2/3rds of tipped jobs being worked by women who have to navigate a sexist abusive system that dehumanizes them. And nobody is telling their story.

Posted by Baconcat on April 3, 2014 at 6:31 PM · Report this
badstone 31
I worked at a failing "cute independent" cafe run by a sad sack former DJ who had never run a business before; "small business owner" shouldn't come with the automatic halo that it does. "I'm not making any money on this place" is a whine I'm sure a lot of baristas and waitresses have had to put up with from owners who were late with paychecks or were caught taking a cut of the tips.
Posted by badstone on April 3, 2014 at 6:40 PM · Report this
@29 -- I know they had other employees. I went there all the time. I can recall off the top of my head three or four other people who worked there, in addition to the two owners.
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on April 3, 2014 at 6:41 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 34
How much is this editorial interference from Tim Keck? Are you guys selling out for business reasons here? It's really just bizarre.

The near complete editorial turnaround after Goldy left is astonishing. I was hemming and hawing on many aspects of $15/now but I'm inclined to go all in Yes just a fuck you here.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on April 3, 2014 at 7:02 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 35
*as a
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on April 3, 2014 at 7:02 PM · Report this
Vermillion 36
Why is less than $15 an hour not a living wage? And why is this small business owners' fault? Why does nobody ask this?
Posted by Vermillion on April 3, 2014 at 7:04 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 37

Whenever these discussions come up, whether it's tax policy or wages or some other regulations, people always climb out of the woodwork to go to bat for the absolutely most marginal businesses that can barely scrape by even under the best, cheapest conditions. Sometimes businesses just fail, and I'm not interested in basing government policy on a good outcome for some some restaurant straight out of Kitchen Nightmares.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 3, 2014 at 7:08 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 38
@36 living wages are typically based upon a minimum cost of living in an area. It's not rocket science. Minimum wage in New York, London or Seattle should be higher than a minimum wage in a town 50 miles outside of Topeka.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on April 3, 2014 at 7:08 PM · Report this
Words cant describe how you just piled as much rhetoric as you possibly could into one post. Who made you Judge & Jury of what is fair and what isnt. You speak of poverty as if you can vicariously speak through the tortured life of a MW employee ..Its very bigoted of you to speak on behalf of minorities as my wife is one and are most of her employee's who dont share your view(amazing isnt it).

You assume that a Minimum wage going up is fair and that MW worker should be given a fair shake in life. Were in agreement there. But no business owner in their right mind thinks raising costs 60% overnight or in 3 years is Realistic!

So how about solutions..Raise the Minimum wage to $15 but over a 8 year period and then set a Cola adjustment tied to inflation in Seattle thereafter. For Highschoolers or under 20 crowd put a training wage of $9.32 per hour in so that they have a fair shake at any of the jobs and their is an incentive for an employer to take a risk on them.

The immediate effect is that wages go up year one with the city of Seattle able to observe the economic impact and course correct if Unemployment were to go up. If it doesnt the wheels are set in motion.
Posted by A real live employer on April 3, 2014 at 7:08 PM · Report this
trstr 40
@20: If you don't personally know anyone skipping meals, you live a cherished life. Congratulations. Now let those of us who do (or who are) discuss things since we're the ones directly impacted by this.
Posted by trstr on April 3, 2014 at 7:12 PM · Report this
@33 your username is ironic.

"until they pay $15 an hour they are underpaying the workers."

What about the bars and restaurants paying their servers/bartenders/etc minimum wage but are walking out of there averaging $30 per hour. Are they underpaid? Should their minimum wage go up as well so they're now making $36 per hour?
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 7:16 PM · Report this

Cool. Wouldn't have expected any less from you.
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 7:17 PM · Report this
trstr 43
@41: "Should their minimum wage go up as well so they're now making $36 per hour?"

Sure, why not?

(PS: As I said before, this is a local issue. Please excuse yourself.)
Posted by trstr on April 3, 2014 at 7:19 PM · Report this
@39: 8 year period? That has to be a joke, right? If you want to talk 8 year period, let's talk $20, 25. Also, telling someone you don't know that they can't speak for some group is pretty arrogant. You don't know if Baconcat is a minority, and you admit you aren't, so lecturing someone else comes across as more white male bullying.

Also, raising costs 60% over 3 years? What business are you running where 100% of your costs are minimum wage workers who get no benefits or compensation other than a minimum hourly wage?
Posted by Hanoumatoi on April 3, 2014 at 7:28 PM · Report this
trstr 47
@45: Read it again.
Posted by trstr on April 3, 2014 at 7:33 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 48
Four out of five businesses fail in the first two years? No. The Small Business Administration says it's closer to almost 4 out of 5 survive the first two years. Even at five years, only three out of five have shut down. Like the made up numbers Andrew Friedman got into an article in the Stranger, this is yet another small business owner who doesn't actually know what he's talking about.

These guys all talk down to us like we're children and they're here to tell us what's what, and if you prod them just a little bit, you find out they're full of shit.

Did you fact check the stats about his business? Because we have a record of lying here. Nobody has released their books. Instead we get the business owners getting caught red handed making shit up, or else cherry picking only the portion of their books they want us to know about.

And then even if everything about Cintli is true, so what? Some businesses are terrible and deserve to fail. Some don't deserve to fail and fail anyway. It's one of the reasons small business owners are such martyrs.

What I'd like to know: how many small businesses survive five years in Washington vs how many survive that long where you only have to pay the Federal minimum of $7.25/hr. And practically nothing for tipped employees, $2.15. Why is there not one shred of evidence that Washington's $9.32/hr is bad for business? Not a shred. Where's the high failure rate? Where's the evidence that Washington is corporate-dominated and homogenous because our wages are too high?

Do these guys really think they'd have better odds out where they only have to pay $7.25? And if so, why did they come here? What is it about a city like Seattle that made them decide this was the place for them? I get the feeling wages were not the prime issue. Its the consumer market.

Salt Lake and Houston and Pocatello are "business friendly", but you don't have the customer base that you get here in Seattle, or San Francisco, or Portland.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 3, 2014 at 7:57 PM · Report this
"I support a fair wage, a living wage, a decent wage people can live off of, but the numbers just don't add up. We're barely making it here as a small business. To have that kind of floor on wages, it would just kill us. Without question."

So, what I'm reading is: you don't support a fair/living/decent wage.
Posted by tiktok on April 3, 2014 at 8:00 PM · Report this

Not a joke..A compromise by both affected parties. One where business owners stave off potentially closing up shop & mw workers get to $15

I am telling Bacon Cat not to speak for my wife and my employees. I stand by that. As for 60%
it is a 60% increase period at least for my business. My $14's will get a raise to $19 and my $12's will get alittle for $17. Thats B.S that the new guy or underskilled guy gets the same as them..not going to happen

I propose a new group of business owners Slogan "15 Later"..
8 year phase in & training wage for under 20 crowd so that they can compete and get a job! Not everyone goes to college 20% Unemployment for Teens sucks.
Posted by A real live employer on April 3, 2014 at 8:04 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 51
First, not everyone works "to live", as in pay all the bills. Some people live with partners who make more, are students, just want a second job for extra income etc. MW jobs are suppose to fill those niches, not provide a "real job" for people who need to pay a full cost of living.

Now, are people who should be working "real jobs" stuck in low wage ones? Yes, of course. Will this 15Now crap address that issue? No.

There have always been "side jobs" and "real jobs" in America, with places like cafes acting as "side jobs". No one ever worked at a cafe expecting to raise a family on it, except the management maybe. Jobs like this can't pay that much by the nature of their businesses and never did.

We should be focusing on providing real jobs and real job training for people so they can do something besides make coffee, instead of putting businesses out of business to give them more money to make coffee.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 8:09 PM · Report this
Most small biz owners I know would like to see min wage go up. However it has to be done responsibly and $15 now is very irresponsible. There needs to be time for businesses to adjust and figure out how to do this without closing their doors or making such little profit for what they put into it they're forced to call it a day. This is very new in the scope of things. We need time to figure out what is the right way to help people who are only making $9.32 an hour to make a but more. However if you do it through a knee jerk reaction places are going to close.

What would you do if your boss said tomorrow we are going to cut your paycheck by 60%? That's essentially what $15now is looking to do to small businesses. I know it's not exactly the same but if you think about it it's not far off.

Complete compensation and phase in over 5 years and you get my vote.

I thought this was a good article mostly pointing out how hard it can be to run a small biz.
Posted by Steven Severin on April 3, 2014 at 8:16 PM · Report this
This guy had a 4-year degree in econ and a master's in business, and then in 2008 -- heading into the recession, which he could not only foresee but says was the reason he did so -- he quits a probably-extremely-well-paying contract job and starts a small coffee shop? Jesus. That was an extremely stupid decision, to put it mildly. And this guy is used as an example of how a $15/hr wage would hurt people? Instead, he's a prime example of who SHOULDN'T start a small business: lots of formal education but absolutely no common sense.

Posted by sarah70 on April 3, 2014 at 8:22 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 54
"lots of formal education but absolutely no common sense."
And that sums up the 15Now Red Shirts perfectly.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 8:30 PM · Report this
mulata 55
For the entire time the 15 Now debate has been waging here on Slog I've been wondering why there are periodic calls for business owners to open their books. Reading this piece I finally get it: how much were they paying their employees? Were wages reported or under the table? But enough about that.

Why does Sanchez question the motives of 15 Now? Because he disagrees with them? He doesn't ever say, but he does he paint a grim scene of corporate destruction that comes from god only knows where. If what he envisions was anywhere near true I imagine every large, corporate business would be hustling to get us to $15/hr tomorrow.

"The root problem isn't that workers aren't making $15." True, but it's a significant part of it and one we can do something about. Obama and Co' are working on the health care situation. If he thinks that raising the minimum wage is only going to cause more large chains to move in then he hasn't been paying attention; the large chains are already here. My god, did he not notice the Office Max Christopher mentions at the top of the piece? I haven't noticed wages going up, but I do notice these monsters are more ubiquitous than when I moved to this pretty town. And they're going to keep coming.

Charles Mudede constantly points out that most economists don't deserve the title. Or maybe I'm misreading him and he actually thinks the profession doesn't exist. Reading 'Sanchez the economist' Charles' pointed jabs at the discipline make more sense.

The strangest part of this article (which is actually a reminiscence or a romance) is the way Christopher shackles the collapse of this business (by forces that have yet to materialize, the 15 Now campaign) to the plight of his mother. That, sir, was one strange twist in a maze of them. If it's massive forces you want to rail against then by all means do so. If, however, you want to equate a campaign by the weakest political class in the country to the vile excesses of the banks you are not right minded. I'm not even sure you know what point you're trying to make because I have to hope that isn't it.

Thank you though Christopher for breaking the bland monotony of bar and restaurant owners being the spokespeople for small business in this conversation. Where are the retail business (besides Peter at Elliot Bay) owners? What about the folks with gas stations? The 7-Elevens? Those views are important, too.
Posted by mulata on April 3, 2014 at 8:32 PM · Report this
There needs to be more in the way of cultural protection mandate for urban regions like Seattle. In Canada, we have some legislation on the books that's intended to protect or at least foster Canadian culture in the face of all the American programming and product that comes over the border. I lived in Seattle for 18 years and I feel the difference every time I come back, how it's a little less what it was.

What no one here appears to be acknowledging is that businesses like Sanchez's are what make Seattle. That regardless of your feelings about small business owners, all of the places you know and love ARE small businesses. They're small businesses run locally, and you can't get on board with that and expect to pass an uncompromising hike of the minimum wage without there being some significant fall out. So why not pass laws that act to protect small businesses by halting all this corporate welfare and taxing the massive abundance of multi-billion dollar corporations that are concentrated in the area?

This is what I would do, if I were to go about crafting a policy like this. I would go talk to Costco's people. Costco has the political clout to get legislation passed, as they showed with de-privatizing liquor. They also have fair and ethical work practices for their employees. If you could get them behind a corporate tax funded program to extend loans and other financial aid to Seattle small businesses (and let's face it, that's hardly a chip off the block if you bring Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing into the fold, too) and bring that to the state legislature.

Costco particularly has an interest in seeing small businesses flourish because they are a SIGNIFICANT supplier of goods to small businesses, particularly restaurants and cafes. That has to be accounted for- small businesses patronize other larger businesses. Cisco is a massive food supplier, why not shake them down for a little off the top? It would take a huge amount of political pressure, yes, but if you can get some muscle behind that lobby...
Posted by stilettov on April 3, 2014 at 8:53 PM · Report this
pg13 57
"I don't like to support corporate chains like Subway and OfficeMax; the whole reason I moved to a city was to get away from that shit."

That's such a bizarre idea.

I grew up in a small Midwestern town. When I first moved to the city (Minneapolis for me), I couldn't wait to shop at a 7/11 (like on tv and everything!)

It wasn't until later that I came to appreciate the mom & pop stores I'd left behind...but, to me, the cities are where the chains are...

Now, moving to Capitol Hill to get away from the chains--I get that. (Remember when there was a Burger King on Broadway? I do. Seemed weird.)

And yes, it seems weird that there's an OfficeMax on Broadway now (but, there were plenty of times back when I lived on the Hill where I'd have LOVED for there to be one...but had to settle for what Fred Meyer had.)
Posted by pg13 on April 3, 2014 at 8:55 PM · Report this
ilikefood 58
i miss the old blu bistro there. (yes, i know it is just down the block now, but the old place was great)

i would love to know how much the rent was for this location. is the landlord charging through-the-fucking-roof prices (even by cap hill standards) because in another few years the light rail will be right across the street?
i wish i had taken a panoramic of the 4 blocks on that side of broadway between john st and republican about 6 years ago. can YOU name at least 5 of the businesses that used to line that side of the street?
oh, and btw- the dumbest-idea-for-a-business new tenant of that block HAS to go to nacho borracho. ("hey guys, i've got a great idea- you know that burrito place that just closed due to lack of business? LETS OPEN A MEXICAN JOIN THERE!!!!")
Posted by ilikefood on April 3, 2014 at 8:58 PM · Report this
katrat 59
Are there a whole bunch of small business owners who think $15 immediately is a good idea, but somehow we just aren't hearing from them? Or is it just that (according to these threads) pretty much every single small business owner in Seattle is a greedy asshole. It seems so obvious now, after these comments (from people who have never runs all businesses).
Posted by katrat on April 3, 2014 at 9:08 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 60
I'm sympathetic to small business owners. I've owned a couple of small businesses myself in the past, and my parents owned a small business as well. I know it can be hard to start up a business from nothing. I know it can be hard to make ends meet, pay your employees and your suppliers, and try to eek out a profit.

But my sympathy ends when I hear that the only way for your business to survive it to pay poverty wages to your employees.

So while I do have sympathy and understanding for small businesses, my greater sympathy is for the poorest among us who must somehow figure out how to survive on minimum wage. A minimum wage that has been slowly eaten away by rising inflation over the last several decades so that it is even less now than when it was first implemented.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on April 3, 2014 at 9:18 PM · Report this
ilikefood 61
its not so much that every small business owner is an asshole (though i'm sure there are a few)- its that the city has done such an absolute shit show of a job in providing access to income-relative housing in the area (by basically gutting any low income-medium income projects in favor of $1500 a month studios and $2,000 a month 1 bedrooms), that those of us who work downtown and on the hill and pretty much every other neighborhood in Seattle have been left with no choice but to raise some hell. Should someone who bartends or serves at Liberty be able to afford to live in the neighborhood where they work, and SUPPORT OTHER LOCAL BUSINESSES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, or be forced to commute from everett? (and wind up supporting businesses there instead for things such as groceries/entertainment/and other random stuff)
Posted by ilikefood on April 3, 2014 at 9:20 PM · Report this
@39, Let's not forget you are a small business owner who looked 'deep down inside' and decided you want all your employees to earn a living wage UNLESS they are low skilled, OR are ex-cons or speak poor English. Let's not go too far with the 'bigotry' accusations. Let's also not forget that you admitted that only 7-10 of your employees were on minimum wage, so even if you raise for other tiers, you simply are not going to face a 60% increase for all your business costs. You also claimed you would survive this not by shutting up shop, but by fully automating the 7-10 minimum wage jobs you do have (sure you can). One way or another, please be real.

@51 Is there any cap on the proportion of minimum wage jobs in an economy? Is there any mechanism to peg it to the number of people who 'don't need' a living wage? Is there any bar to offering minimum wage for full-time employment? Any way to ensure there are enough higher-wage jobs available for those who need and deserve them? Any way to stop employers from collectively suppressing the wage market and paying minimum wage to people whose skills and experience are worth more? No? So what earthly sense is there to saying these MW jobs 'should' only be 'side jobs'? In what way is that fantasy connected at all to economic reality?

Posted by diner mo on April 3, 2014 at 9:28 PM · Report this
@63, @39, that is, 7-10 of your 70 employees.
Posted by diner mo on April 3, 2014 at 9:31 PM · Report this
ilikefood 65
seriously, though, i would love to know where all of the occupants of these new condos popping up everywhere on capitol hill work. amazon? redmond? who the fuck can afford $2000+ for a 1 bedroom?
Posted by ilikefood on April 3, 2014 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 66

I think it's that:

1. Small business owners don't tell the truth about where the money comes from and where it goes to anybody. Anybody. Ever. Whenever they talk about their business, they're selling something to somebody. They're never not selling. Between the IRS, lenders and investors, and their help, they can't imagine any circumstances where they reveal what their real books say.

2. It's tough. Competition is always tough for them, and they think of themselves as the world's special victims. They can't imagine letting down their guard and admitting they could give up one tiny advantage. Notice how they all like to be thought of as "supporting" higher wages, but then they turn around and propose a plan where they themselves don't pay higher wages. Only their competition. So it sounds like they're assholes, and liars, but all they're doing is competing. They're never not competing for any business advantage.

It's too bad they're so paranoid and so hard. Business is business, you know. But it means you can't take them at their word. You just can't. You have to demand evidence from them. They'll say anything. And a lot of them believe their own PR.

So they're paranoid martyrs who are constantly being told they're the backbone of America and they're our great job creators and everyone should kiss their ass. Remember how "Joe the Plumber" pretended to be a small business owner? It's like pretending to be an NYC firefighter on 9/11. It gets you laid, all that sympathy and glurge written about you.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 3, 2014 at 9:38 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 68
If you needed the money to raise three kids, you wouldn't work at a bar. If you can't find a job better than a bar and you have three kids, the problem isn't that the bar doesn't pay you much, it is that you still WORK AT THE BAR.

We all grew up hearing the term REAL JOB and now it's like everyone has forgotten it. If these people can't find real jobs, that is the problem, not that working at a burger joint or a cafe isn't a real job because it was never meant to be.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on April 3, 2014 at 9:56 PM · Report this
ilikefood 69
i am a former manager at the largest brewpub/sports bar in the U District. A "chain" that professes to be "local". If you do the math, you can figure out the name.
It used to kill me that our busboys (normally a 18 or 19 year old from UW) would consistently, without fail, EVERY SHIFT, walk away at the end of the night making more per hour than my cooks (normally besting them by an avg of 7-10$ per hour). And its not like these cooks didn't work hard- on the contrary, we were a $5 million-a-year restaurant. These cooks busted ass. And most of them had at least one other full time job. And it isn't that they had to work multiple jobs because they lived in condos on the Hill- most of them commuted from Kent and Beacon Hill and Shoreline. Plain and simple- if you work tirelessly at a job, for a company-any company, mom and pop, large or small- you should be able to live comfortably relatively close to that company if you choose(not 2 and a half hours each way via metro). Fuck $15 an hour, I say give everyone $20. That would almost keep up with inflation.....
Posted by ilikefood on April 3, 2014 at 9:56 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 70
Thank you, Christopher. This has been one of theĀ rareĀ attempts on SLOG to honestly present the perspective of the small business owner. I had a similar conversation with the owner of our favorite neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant, which closed earlier this year and is greatly missed.
Posted by Dr. Z on April 3, 2014 at 9:58 PM · Report this
@2: I so rarely find myself in complete agreement with anything posted to the Slog, but your comment hit it right on the head. Thank you.
Posted by treehugger on April 3, 2014 at 9:59 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 72

It's that contempt you hold for everybody else that's going to make it so hard to defeat the $15/hr initiative. You're "willing to try", and you think low wage workers are, in contrast, unwilling to try. Lazy. Whiners. People who think they're special. Joe the Plumber is the Real America!

In short, you're a Republican. Problem is, Republicans never win squat in Seattle. Republican contempt for the poor never won squat in Seattle. So you either have to fake being a pussy liberal, which will fail, or forfeit.

What all of you guys should be doing is saying, "Let lefty Seattle commit suicide! They're all pinkos, so we'll sit back and watch from business-friendly Boise or Oklahoma City. When Seattle is in ruins, the world will see we were right!" If you truly believe this will destroy Seattle's economy, then you've got to seize this chance to nip any future wage increases in the bud.

If $15/hr isn't a disaster in Seattle, it will start to spread across the country. Why not use Seattle to show the world what happens when you don't give the Job Creators their due?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 3, 2014 at 10:07 PM · Report this
@67 Danbrstevens, you fundamentally misunderstand why people want a $15 minimum. It is not because they think that all business owners are creaming it. It is not because they think it is easy to run a business.

It is because collectively, business owners have the power to suppress the wage market to the point where at the bottom end people can't live on the wages available. If a few employers are paying low, everyone else can too. Economic truth, right? Wage protection is what stops wages bottoming out at next to nothing. And because of the power of business owners, wage protection has not kept in step with inflation for a long time. Now the balance needs adjustment.

Do you really think you should be allowed to pay people what you like forever because you were 'brave' to start a business? Because you had the 'will to try'? Because you tightened your belt for 18 months? Or, more fundamentally, because you had access to capital that others don't? Why does any of that entitle you to profit from helping to suppress wages?
Posted by diner mo on April 3, 2014 at 10:11 PM · Report this
@43 "(PS: As I said before, this is a local issue. Please excuse yourself.)"

I have a business interest in the area, thus, this is my business. Sorry that's hard for you to understand.

@48 "These guys all talk down to us like we're children"

Because most of you act like children on here. I'm really surprised some people are still taken the 15 Now camp seriously in any capacity from the type of attitude and immaturity shown on here and elsewhere.

"The Small Business Administration says it's closer to almost 4 out of 5 survive the first two years. Even at five years, only three out of five have shut down."

The SBA, citing the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, Business Dynamics Statistics and U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BED, says 3.5 out of 5 survive at last two years, and 2.5 survive 5 years. Or, do you just round up to make your point stick better?

This, of course, is very broad across all industries. Bars/restaurants are significantly higher in number that close within the first 4-5 years.
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 10:16 PM · Report this
katrat 75
Clearly we shouldn't even have small businesses; they can't be trusted and inevitably turn nefarious. I look forward to whatever it is that fills the huge void left in their wake after the great purification...
Posted by katrat on April 3, 2014 at 10:20 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 76

Click on the link. It's right there.


Now you're talking. If you guys really believe your rhetoric, you've got to take this chance to prove it. This is so much like "Going Galt" isn't it? At the root of it is that the "children" who depend on you to create their jobs don't appreciate you.

Only one way to make them appreciate all you do. Run the experiment.

(Of course I don't think you really believe your rhetoric, hence trying to have it both ways, e.g. Dave Meinert.)
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 3, 2014 at 10:28 PM · Report this
@68 You could just read my post again instead of responding, seeing as you didn't take it in or engage with it at all.

@75 Very dramatic. You're assuming no market elasticity for small businesses, despite how much they are apparently cherished and supported by each other, let alone anyone else.
Posted by diner mo on April 3, 2014 at 10:33 PM · Report this
trstr 78
@74: Then fine. Post here on this local blog all you want even though you're a thousand miles from here. Just goes to show what lengths outside interests will go to to shut down a living wage here in Seattle...

... although in the other thread you said that you're a bartender in Cali. Must be some business.

Posted by trstr on April 3, 2014 at 10:49 PM · Report this
@76, my information came directly from SBA.…

@74 I'll do what I want regardless of what you think or say. I do bartend, amongst other things. Having a business interest elsewhere isn't all that difficult.

Lol, boohoo at the man going lengths to "shut down a living wage in Seattle".
Posted by madeofcheese on April 3, 2014 at 11:14 PM · Report this
trstr 80
@79: Dunno if you were in California during Prop 8, but if you were, how did you feel about folks in Utah campaigning to say who could and couldn't get married in your state? I guess they did have business interests, after all.
Posted by trstr on April 4, 2014 at 1:05 AM · Report this
The "read more" link to expand the story doesn't work.

Nothing against this or other small business owners but it sound like their problem was low sales not high wages. As was pointed out in here the two owners were basically working full time for free and they don't have to contend with a $15 wage now and they're still failing. Either they needed a more appealing product or better advertising to increase sales and stay open. Absent that, it sounds like they'd still fail even if we dropped the minimum wage to $5.

I also take exception to the owner's assertion that "Historically it has been proven, any time the government tries to intrude with price ceilings, price floors, they end up just fucking it all up." This is not objective fact from an educated economist (but then again economics is not even an objective science anyway!). This is the sort of sentiment you read in the WSJ opinion page. I offer as a counter example to this false claim our nation's ag policies for farm commodity price stbilization and grain reserves pre- Nixon/ earl butz.
Posted by Upchuck on April 4, 2014 at 1:39 AM · Report this
seatackled 82

If it's not working for you, try just clicking on the headline or on "link" right next to the comments.

Spoiler alert: the cafe closed.
Posted by seatackled on April 4, 2014 at 2:21 AM · Report this
Too bad when we think about people making something in this country we're talking about a cappuccino and not a durable good. I'm with 15 now and couldn't care less about unique snowflake coffee shop run by private university graduates; but this economy is doomed as long as it is not creating wealth buy making things. Instead, coffee shops are sticking their hands into pockets of people working at other businesses like coffee shops. It's a house of cards and people should stop believing the dream of the 90s when Bill Clinton told a tool and die maker who was losing their job that they just needed to be retrained (presumably on a computer so he could work at a call center for a bank or phone company??). Tool and die is the foundation of a society that creates things. We lost those people, detroit, baltimore and east st. louis are distopian wastelands and we are boo hooing at the tattered fringes of an all but closing Boeing factories about how if we just paid waiters more, it would be ok.
Posted by Agrippa on April 4, 2014 at 5:01 AM · Report this
72 insert your foot in mouth.
I like your hypocrital comments about name calling on former threads and then resort to it yourself. You know the one where I called you "Garbage".

And its also nice to see you resort to labeling a dissenter of the$15 a republican.. Dreaded label you think trumps any argument. Get a new one seriously

What do you do for a living that have so much knowledge of the inner workings of a business owners. I mean post after post you pretend or at least fake like you know how to run a business and its us greedy republican slave labor business owners that are holding back the little man. But you on the other hand are such a charitable empathetic activist who sheds a tear for MW tortured souls..Plz!! Like you have lended even a fraction of your time and money like many of the people you rip on. Many of these business owners BTW pay their employee's above $15 such as me, donate to many charitable organizations & spend a great deal training and mentoring those who we care about.

Between you and diner mo you should join ranks for the biggest pack of idealistic sycophants this message board has.

BTW Polling is now 71% in Favor you being called a Douche...seems to keep going up !!

Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 7:20 AM · Report this
Dear fucking God, Stranger, this is a new low in missing the point. So you just highlighted a small business that closed, wait for it... NOT IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER RELATED TO 15$ MINIMUM WAGE AT ALL. This business closed because rents are too high. This is turning into the most ridiculous spoiled white hipster whine fest ever about how this little soap boutique and that little cupcake stand and this little fancy toast shop might close if we raise the minimum wage. Well guess what, a lot of them will. The market will experience some turbulence and adjust. But the truth is, it appears these cutesy little businesses are getting priced right out of your neighborhood anyway. I left Capitol Hill in 2008 and in just the last 5 years it has become almost unrecognizable from the Hill I lived and played on for over a decade. TONS of small businesses that had been there for years are gone and it has nothing to do with wages. It has everything to do with rents and cost of living.
Finally, there are some good reasons to proceed with caution on $15/hour, but nit picking individual anecdotal examples, especially completely irrelevant ones like this, is not advancing the discussion at all. Its just making it much much dumber. 15 Now supporters understand there is going to be a cost to this and that cost is going to fall on business owners and consumers. But low wage workers have been bearing societal costs for an eternity. Its really nothing to cry about if one time, in one little tiny corner of the world, the have's shouldered the burden of change instead of the have nots.
Posted by longball on April 4, 2014 at 8:03 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 89

Republicans are real. They exist. They have a well-defined set of beliefs. When you listen to a full rundown of those beliefs, the obvious conclusion is, hey, a Republican. Great! Republicans do win elections. There are voters out there who hear all this stuff about how great business owners are and how low wage workers just need to work harder and have some courage. They eat that stuff up. But those voters are not here.

You're out of ammo and all you have left is name calling. It's sad to watch.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on April 4, 2014 at 8:40 AM · Report this
@87 "Many of these business owners BTW pay their employee's above $15 such as me," - except for the 7-10 employees you pay at the current minimum, remember?

Idealist Sycophant
Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 8:48 AM · Report this
Granny Smith 91
"everybody gets bonuses" is just lazy fear-mongering. Banks are huge institutions with lots of different divisions. Bonuses are a part of compensation packages for some of those employees in some of those divisions. It is no different than getting a vacation or paid holidays. Just because part of a bank gets bailed out doesn't mean that every employee is responsible or that they shouldn't get the compensation that they have earned. How about we punish you for every dumb thing Charles writes?
Posted by Granny Smith on April 4, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Report this
Not to be pendantic (Im going to anyway), but a minimum wage increase in Wa State has zero chance of causing inflation. Inflation of the dollar is not determined at this scale. There may be local price increases, but that is not inflation.

Just my general comment on the article; Wages are not the right way to mould the character of a city. If you want more "cute" businesses, controlling wages is not the way to do that. Instead of fighting the rise of wages, this paper would serve its ad customers better by trying to lower taxes on those businesses. Create an incentive structure. Something like that. I dont want to live in a city where there are lots of "cute" stores that pay their workers poverty wages. That sounds like a gilded age to me.
The minimum wage is there as a protection against poverty. Right now its not doing its job, and must be adjusted.
Posted by JonCracolici on April 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM · Report this
@80 "Dunno if you were in California during Prop 8, but if you were, how did you feel about folks in Utah campaigning to say who could and couldn't get married in your state? I guess they did have business interests, after all."

If that's their prerogative. I guess I should have acted like you though, "Fuck you! You can't talk about this! This isn't your business! Zip it! We don't care about your opinions!"

They had every right to be here, just as those from out of state that came here to support Prop 8.
Posted by madeofcheese on April 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM · Report this
"They had every right to be here, just as those from out of state that came here to support Prop 8."

And, by support, I mean oppose Prop 8.

Error on my part.
Posted by madeofcheese on April 4, 2014 at 11:26 AM · Report this
@86 You are very wrong.

Increasing the minimum wage without a corresponding increase in PRODUCTIVITY will absolutely cause inflation.

If I produce one widget for $10, then the price of the widget =$10

If I produce one widget, but pay $15, then the price of the widget = $15 ...or 50% inflation.

If we produce 1.5 widgets and pay $15 then the price of a widget = $10 and thus no inflation.

This very simple concept goes tot he heart of the minimum wage argument. The minimum wage is a starting wage for those entering the job market or for those without skills.

The real way to improve the "real earnings" of the worker is to make them more productive and thus improve the fortunes of all people.

We do this my letting people enter the job market at a minimal level, gain experience and skills and more up the earnings ladder.

The $15 Now basically disrupts and destroys a very time proven and effective system which works and works well.

The concept of a "living wage" is separate and apart and has little if anything to do with min. wage.

Oh, yes and it will definitely cause inflation ...big time which is good for nobody.

Posted by mistral on April 4, 2014 at 12:28 PM · Report this
@ 92 You are very wrong.

Increasing the minimum wage without a corresponding increase in PRODUCTIVITY will absolutely cause inflation.

If I produce one widget for $10, then the price of the widget =$10

If I produce one widget, but pay $15, then the price of the widget = $15 ...or 50% inflation.

If we produce 1.5 widgets and pay $15 then the price of a widget = $10 and thus no inflation.

This very simple concept goes tot he heart of the minimum wage argument. The minimum wage is a starting wage for those entering the job market or for those without skills.

The real way to improve the "real earnings" of the worker is to make them more productive and thus improve the fortunes of all people.

We do this my letting people enter the job market at a minimal level, gain experience and skills and more up the earnings ladder.

The $15 Now basically disrupts and destroys a very time proven and effective system which works and works well.

The concept of a "living wage" is separate and apart and has little if anything to do with min. wage.

Oh, yes and it will definitely cause inflation ...big time which is good for nobody.
Posted by mistral on April 4, 2014 at 12:29 PM · Report this
Someone way above was right (which may be a first): it's not enough to "support" a living wage, you have to PAY a living wage. That's apparently what every small business owner who has posted in any blog or any newspaper in the last several months doesn't understand. It means absolutely nothing if you go on for 18 paragraphs about your empathy for low-wage workers; empathy doesn't mean shit to someone who can't pay their rent.
Posted by sarah70 on April 4, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Diner Mo> Yes I have 7 on the shortlist paid mw(who do comprise of ex-cons & minimally skilled workers). But I also have a large amount of my employee's making over $15.

I haven't heard one even hint at negotiation or compromise with you and 71% Douche over $15now!! So I would categorize you as being a wasted cause and vote for that matter. Your in the tank and your vote is taken for granted.. Just a bunch of pawns who feign empathy to protect the "seattle way".

As for facts how about both of you reference the Bloomberg National poll stating that MW is only 45% in Favor of if it kills jobs. 68% in Favor of it if it doesnt. Is Seattle an outlier to this poll? You know the one that raises the minimum wage by roughly 40% instead of 60% here.

Once again. Have either of you ran a business? All of your posts reference how it should be done? Please do tell us of wise sage..LOL >

You wont but you will tell all of these progressive democrat business owners that they are Republican because they think your a douche. You have more of the Tea-Party ideology (polarized) one sided view then any of these business owners.

Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Previous Post referencing
Idealist Sycophant Diner MO * Closet Tea Party Bigoted Spewing @ 76
Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 1:07 PM · Report this
I dont think your argument holds on this scale of inflation of the USD. What youre talking about it local price adjustments having an effect on the local cost of living. A widget maker is capable of influencing the cost of things involving widgets, but not really the cost of a USD. The supply of USD isnt a fixed number, and a lot of the business of the Fed is to manipulate that number to try to control the value of the USD.
If the Saudi's dropped the USD as their currency of choice, that would probably cause inflation.
Raising wages for what, 100,000 people? (ive seen that number thrown around.) Yeah thats no bigs. Thats a raise of $4/hr for 0.034% of the (legal) population of this country. Your latte might be $0.25 more in that sliver, but inflation? No way.
Posted by JonCracolici on April 4, 2014 at 3:54 PM · Report this
I'm not even sure if will effect cost of living that much. Maybe, but am I sure? No.
The total dollar cost of giving 100k FT min-wage workers a $4.50 raise is $0.9B
The GDP of the MSA in 09(middle of Recession) was $218.8B. The annual research budget of the UW is $1.2B. This isn't really an insane amount of money we'd be putting into people's hands. Even locally. That's what...0.4% of the wealth(in 09, a low point) going to the poorest workers in the region.
Posted by JonCracolici on April 4, 2014 at 4:11 PM · Report this
@98 Please understand that arguments about the minimum wage are about the minimum wage. So what you pay your minimum wage earners is to the point, and what you pay others is not. Claims like "I pay my workers above $15" are, to put it politely, not true, when you pay some of your workers below $15.

It's hard to have discussions that approach the level of "negotiation" or "compromise", let alone respectful dialogue, when one is not starting with the truth, or at least a straight story.

This idea about "protecting the Seattle way" - if it were protecting the Seattle way, wouldn't we be arguing for keeping the status quo, not changing it? I keep noticing this up-is-down, left-is-right rhetoric from you and others arguing with you: supposedly those who want a living wage for all workers are "like George W Bush" or "the Tea Party". How does this work again? Do you really have to strain that hard to convince yourself that paying people a poverty wage is progressive? That kind of strain is not good for the bowels. I recommend fibre and the honesty provided by a small hand-mirror. A turd is a turd is a turd.

As for polls, to be clear, I'm not personally very interested in them. They don't give a very good indication of what is ethical, only of what is popular. My point here is that it's not ethical to secure your access to profit by ensuring others live in poverty. That's the point you keep avoiding. Ethical arguments do tend to be one-sided and relatively uncompromising, like, say, arguments for civil rights, universal franchise, the right to trial, etc.

Have I run a business? Yes, in fact, but I don't think it matters much. What matters is what we all know: if the legislation allowed it, some businesses would increase their viability and their profit margins by skipping insurance, health and safety practices, tax, and *any form of fair compensation for labor*. And if some businesses were allowed to do it, all businesses would "need" to do it. Look around the world. Look at labor practices in places where there are few legislative protections. It's just the truth. Good legislation and its enforcement is the only thing that protects workers from dying in mines for 10 cents a day. But legislation has to keep abreast of the cost of living and current labor practices, or it's irrelevant. US minimum wages have not done that. It needs to change.

Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 4:45 PM · Report this
@diner mo & real live....
Why would either of you negotiate? How does that make sense? I can sit down with you guys and negotiate a peace in the middle east, but....
Also its easy to be both pro-civil rights, pro-choice, etc, liberal on "social" policies and still not hold worker interest at heart, or even necessarily have any specific economic ideology. Its very easy to be materially selfish while promoting civil equality. When gay folks get the right to marry it doesnt cost anyone anything.
Posted by JonCracolici on April 4, 2014 at 5:04 PM · Report this
@JonCracolici - yes.
Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 5:38 PM · Report this
I'm sympathetic to entrepreneurs, but at the same time I don't trust them.

Every small business I've ever worked for has doctored timecards and withheld paychecks. And every time a minimum wage hike is discussed, we hear the same warnings from the same business owners about how it will kill jobs and end capitalism as we know it. Yet the dire warnings never come true.

Business owners will adapt. If they fail, new entrepreneurs will come to take their place.
Posted by Lack Thereof on April 4, 2014 at 6:57 PM · Report this
Diner Mo
I think its clear my position on the 9.32 MW employee's I have. They are free to leave right now and find a better deal!! Or I could fast-track that and let them go and force them to find this better deal. Option 1 they stay gainfully employed and work up to $15 over time developing their skill with time ..Option 2 they are out of a job and have a tough time finding one that will overlook their criminal history or zero experiance due to hardship.

Simply put mandating me to raise the minimum wage because of the right thing to do doesn't mean I wont let these people go and replace them with a more talented person( who more skilled) or purchase equipment to automate. All it does is forces my hand and for certain I am less inclined to take chances on less skilled workers.

Sooo..when business owners says the poor are worse off they actually mean it. Not that we do not benefit from low wages..we do..but so does the guy who might go homeless as a result.

Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 7:21 PM · Report this

Isnt that what we are all attempting to accomplish here is to move the opposing view more towards the middle for a deal. Data that both supports and rejects the notion of the benefit of MW Wage.

Solution: No exemptions..MW Wage goes to $15 per hour in 8 years( .71cents per year) + Inflation starting year one(2-3% CPI). Training Wage for Under 20 for $10 per hour to incentivize employers to hire teenagers vs adults for 12months.
Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 7:26 PM · Report this
ehhh its not really a negotiation. People are arguing with each other on the internet. You don't have the power to strike a deal on something like this. Neither do I.
Posted by JonCracolici on April 4, 2014 at 8:24 PM · Report this
@106 Your hard-talk about the MW employees you have now makes some sense right now, because it's what the legislation and market allow, but no sense in a scenario where all MW jobs move to $15. The MW workers available to you them will be the MW workers available to you now. Go ahead, find better ones if you can. It's not a charity. And sure, it's conceivable you could automate some of those jobs for cheaper, but that won't be common over the whole job market. Automation is not going to make much difference in an economy that's not manufacturing dependent.

Will businesses close and the job market shrink irrevocably because of the wage hike? Only if Seattle turns out to have a shockingly inelastic economy. I do think it's worth considering ways to make this work smoothly, and a training wage (with strict restrictions on the number of hours it's available for) is one to think about. An 8 year roll-out for $15 is rubbish, though. Workers have been saving people like you economic pain for far too long already.
Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 8:55 PM · Report this
@106 also, is there anything at all in the legislation or market that will ensure you will pay those workers more than MW once they have 'developed their skill over time'? Nope. Why should this be left over to your good graces?
Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 9:24 PM · Report this
"I think its clear my position on the 9.32 MW employee's I have. They are free to leave right now and find a better deal!! Or I could fast-track that and let them go and force them to find this better deal. Option 1 they stay gainfully employed and work up to $15 over time developing their skill with time ..Option 2 they are out of a job and have a tough time finding one that will overlook their criminal history or zero experiance due to hardship."

@106, that pretty much says who you are, and it ain't pretty. You I hire ex-cons because they're cheap and desperate, and you hire inexperienced people because they're cheap and desperate, even though the "skill" either of them need is something they can pick up in 2 days, and has no relation to what the ex-cons were in prison for. You're a real gem of capitalism.
Posted by sarah70 on April 4, 2014 at 10:09 PM · Report this
Diner Mo.
Lets say we set aside our clear differences on this one. What do you like about $15phased in as opposed to say $11 or 12 immediately. How do you strike the fragile balance between increasing discretionary income for MW and also risking a business such as mine or any other( I imagine I am not alone in my short list example) to trim the labor force initially before testing elasticity of demand.

Business Owners tend such as I to plan things out Like Lease term, Inventory levels, Equipment purchases based on some plans that take into account Current Labor costs, Taxes, Shrinkage. Its much easier for us to assume to cut costs because thats a predictable outcome in Hours x Rate=______ But what your asking is for Small Business owners to take a leap of faith and assume sales will follow with increase demand..And if they dont well thats on us and we were not meant to be.
In Summary I know your opinion what is your solution?

Sarah 70> Welcome to the message board And Yes I am that type of small business owner who gives ex-cons a chance and low skilled people a chance.Not a whole lot of owners bridge that divide so spare me. Please also describe in your mind a Gem of Capitalism,you know like the other business you know that gives them a fair shake in life.PLZ

Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 10:50 PM · Report this
Sarah 70
Its impressive you spew such venom( referencing your previous posts)..Anything marginally positive to say. Or do you search the message boards for that poor sucker who strikes the wrong nerve with you.

One way to look at my post is that I hired the ex con in the first place & provided he/she with a shot. Have you done that before yourself? You know hired someone with a checkered past ..likely not

But No you dont look at it Half Glass choose to look at it Half Glass empty and somehow reframe me as the Greedy business owner who stereotypes his employee's.

It would be like me stereotyping that your a 70yr Old Women who is long since past her prime and lacks any real influence so like me has resorted to typing messages on the Stranger Message board. To me that bigoted comment of mine is how your previous post came off.

Posted by A real live employer on April 4, 2014 at 11:07 PM · Report this
@113. Here's what I like about $15 as opposed to $11 or $12. The first gives MW workers a living wage, the second doesn't. Complex, huh?

Yes, there are risks of a poor outcome involved, and those risks are shared between business owners (loss of business), consumers (higher prices) and workers (loss of jobs). The risks are mitigated by guaranteed higher income for MW workers and likely economic stimulus. On the other hand, in the current situation, there is no risk of a poor outcome. There is only a guaranteed poor outcome. And that poor outcome is borne exclusively by workers. Get it yet? Here is my solution: $15 MW.

Lol @114. You know, I don't particularly think worse of you for taking advantage of legislative conditions and paying your MW workers poverty wages, given that's where the market is and what you're allowed by law to do. I do think worse of you for congratulating yourself about it like it's a moral achievement, and for arguing that this be allowed to continue. Those people do work for you that you need. They help you make a profit, and they don't share in your profit. As your profit increases, you can keep paying them the same, no matter how much you make or how much their skills and experience improve. You don't win a Nobel Prize here for helping to suppress wages below the point where others can make a living. Really, you don't.
Posted by diner mo on April 4, 2014 at 11:42 PM · Report this
Diner Mo.
Nice Assumption. I do actually pay them more as my profit goes up. The workers that I spoke of are working presently and making more then MW. They started at mw on the other hand. We are after all are talking about a starting pt for workers everywhere in Seattle being $15.
Your solution is pathetic..I mean if your going to take a hardline stance at least go for $20 per hour..since $15 was pulled out of the ass of some union boss and a easy slogan you default to that. But you cant be reasoned with and its a waste a time to.
Posted by A real live employer on April 5, 2014 at 7:52 AM · Report this
I said you CAN keep paying them the same. The law says it's okay. And if you're not doing it, you can bet others are, and if others are, pretty soon when you feel some bottom-line pressure you're going to do the same as your neighbours. That's the reality of the market without good wage protection. That's why we need change.
Posted by diner mo on April 5, 2014 at 9:39 AM · Report this
JamieS 120
This article makes a typical mistake of choosing someone who is involved in an industry and presenting him as a surrogate expert for how industry works. Cintli is depicted as being both knowledgeable and sympathetic to the plight of the poor, yet what he does with those characteristics is odd: saddled with a failing business, he helps the poor obtain loans (which have to be paid back) to pursue their own businesses, which presumably will also fail (since most do). He sees the problems with life as not a lack of wages but that people can't afford things--apparently, he doesn't see the connection there--and conflates his own inability to make a profit with the inability of all small businesses to compete, which is not true.

There is a reason why corporate franchises proliferate while one-off ventures fail: franchises are more likely to make money because they are already proven, while one-offs are fresh rolls of the dice each time. Cintli gave his dream a go and he failed. It happens; for most entrepreneurs, it happens many times. Maybe he can get more financing and maybe not, but the bottom line is that starting a business is not for people who can't afford to fail. Failure is part of the learning process, especially for someone who doesn't want to buy a franchise.
Posted by JamieS on September 23, 2014 at 12:20 PM · Report this
JamieS 121
@116/Real Live Employer:

You make a good point: where did the $15/hr figure come from? It's not simply a desire to recapture the high-water mark of the past; according to the Department of Labor, the real-dollar peak came at just over $10 current buying power in the late 1960s.

For me, the solution is to set the minimum wage such that someone earning it on a full-time basis (by which I mean 40 hours per week) makes enough that he or she qualifies for no Federal or Fed/State partnership public assistance: SNAP, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, etc. At that point, we can say that one's employment is bearing the true cost of living, because it exceeds the level at which apparent employment is actually a form of cost-sharing with the taxpayer. It eliminates the "free lunch" that employers get by benefitting from workers who maintain livable standards only due to public subsidy, thereby turning the pricing/profit decisions over to the employers to make without a moral judgment from society as a whole.

Part and parcel of this, such a minimum wage must necessarily be indexed to inflation. That, more than anything, is what has ruined the existing wage: as time goes on, inflation has eroded its real-dollar buying power, yet it remains as a marker, making people think that it represents a fair wage even though, to the extent that it was fair 40 years ago, it now represents a giant pay cut. Most Americans are financially illiterate, so they don't understand that, but I suspect you do.

As a member of a partnership-taxed LLC who sees about 50% of all gross income vanish into Federal, State, OASDI, and Medicare taxes, I do understand the pressures that face business owners. That said, we are citizens and taxpayers first. Adopting the plan I'm outlining would mean that, overnight, no full-time workers would qualify for public benefits *at all* and we could adjust the benefits to a sliding scale to achieve the same effects for part-time work. The substantial cost savings, if mandated in the way it was implemented, could offset a big part of our own added costs as business owners and achieve positive social ends. That would be A Good Thing, right?
Posted by JamieS on September 23, 2014 at 12:31 PM · Report this

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