Dave Meinert owns several local businesses including the Comet Tavern and the 5 Point Cafe.
I respect 15Now and believe they are attempting to address some important issues in Seattle. But I'm not sure they understand how small businesses in Seattle operate, nor how things work for tipped employees here. Contrary to what 15Now organizer Jess Spear claims, total compensation doesn't destroy nor redefine the minimum wage. To believe that you have to believe that almost every new minimum wage law in the US, including laws in DC, San Francisco, San Jose, Sante Fe, and Obama's $10.10 minimum wage proposal, are meaningless. They aren't. They are good laws that lift workers out of poverty, and I think Seattle deserves a minimum wage law that reflects the intelligence and nuances of those laws.
What total compensation doesn't include is all the things Jess Spear listed—meals, paid sick leave, bus passes, or vacation time. Jess is making hyperbolic arguments against a proposal that hasn't been made. And claiming employer paid health insurance would "gut" the minimum wage is disingenuous. If we can create a law guaranteeing no worker in Seattle makes less than $15/hour, including employer-funded health insurance, while not shuttering small businesses, we're a stronger city.
The Virginia minimum wage for tipped employees might be $2.13. But this is Seattle. Citing minimum wage of $2.13 in another state is a scare tactic. Washington State's minimum wage is $9.32 per hour. No tipped employee in Seattle can have a base wage below that.
If we go to $15 without counting tips, employers will have to replace tips with higher prices. Some in the 15Now movement say this would be great. But for servers, while they will have a higher base wage, their overall earnings would decrease dramatically. Let's not lower one group of workers wages to raise another, instead of raising everyone's earnings.
Enforcement won't be difficult if, as is done all over the country, we assign health insurance a flat value of say, $2, ensuring workers receive health insurance instead of just getting a higher wage and having to go buy it themselves, which many wouldn't do. Workers not having health insurance is bad for the ACA exchange, and bad for society. We need a clear law with strict enforcement mechanisms and consequences as I have proposed.
Total compensation guarantees EVERY worker earn at least $15. With it, we won't have to watch more of our unique small businesses close.