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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Murray Announces Minimum Wage Plan So Complicated Reporters Can't Understand It

Posted by on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 11:55 AM

This is the minimum wage proposal Mayor Ed Murray put forth today. Is it complicated? Yes. Can we explain it? Well try.
  • This is the minimum wage proposal Mayor Ed Murray put forth today. Is it complicated? Yes. Can we explain it? We'll try.
This morning, in a press conference do-over after last week's flub, Mayor Ed Murray announced the details of his minimum wage proposal, one he says has the support of 21 of his advisory committee's 24 members. The end result: a $15 wage for all employees in Seattle with no exceptions—but phased in over up to seven years without cost of living adjustments. It's very similar to what leaked out last week, but here are the details:

• The difference between large and small business is indeed 500 full-time employees, (this includes employees nationally, not just in Seattle)

• At large businesses, employees who don't receive employer-paid health care hit the $15 wage in three years, while employees who receive health care hit $15 in four years

Small businesses hit the $15 wage in seven years. In addition, over the first five years, a "temporary compensation responsibility" will be established that includes a combination of tips, health care and wages. That sounds really complicated; check out that wage table and we'll unpack it further later today.

• Once the first job category hits $15, it starts adjusting based on CPI; in the case of the later categories adjustment happens a little faster so as to catch up with that first category. Everyone reaches the same wage in 2025, which at that point will be $18.13 an hour.

Committee co-chair and SEIU 775 president David Rolf championed the deal as the result of a worker movement. "We're entering our fourth decade of wageless economic growth in America," he pointed out, "and our 14th year of jobless economic growth... Americans are saying, 'Enough is enough.'" He recalled the beginning of last summer's fast-food strikes, mentioning by name Caroline Durocher, the first Seattle employee to kick off those fast-food strikes in May 2013. All over the city, said Rolf, "fast food workers, unprotected by a union, walked off the job." Now their demand for a $15 minimum wage is, in one form or another, at city hall. And a coalition of progressive organizations has come together to support this plan wholeheartedly, even though it seems like a much larger compromise on the part of workers than on business.

But interestingly, while committee co-chair Howard Wright says he thinks "most of the employer community will be happy with this," it's notable that it's mainly people on the business side who haven't signed on to this plan. Murray clarified after questions that there was one no vote, one abstention, and one unknown vote on this plan from his committee members. The no came from Craig Dawson of Retail Lockbox; the abstention from Maud Daudon of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. (The unknown? Kshama Sawant, who will hold her own press conference in mere moments.)

Will fierce lobbying from business interests water it down even further in city council? Representing council, Nick Licata said that while this wasn't an "ideal" proposal, it was an "awesome victory" for the 100,000 Seattle workers who currently make less than $15 an hour. But no other council members were in the room; both Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant are on this committee. Licata said that legislators do like to get their "fingerprints" on a plan like this, but he thought it could pass. Without more council voices, that's not clear.

Murray, for his part, said he believes this compromise will avoid a major fight at the ballot, but the jury's still out on that, since different sides still have time to file initiatives and collect signatures. In fact, one group is already promising opposition to this plan: Kathrina Tugadi, of the group Forward Seattle, says they'll file their initiative in the next 10 days. This plan is way too complicated, says Tugadi, and "seven years is too long." Her plan? "$12.50 in five years for everyone, no exceptions, no total compensation, no tips... It's simple, and it protects the smallest businesses." They may not actually send that to the ballot, Tugadi notes, depending on what happens in city council.

Meanwhile, a crush of reporters sat down with the mayor's policy wonks to try and figure out just what the hell that table up there really means. We'll be breaking it down further over the course of the day, but it's important to remember: If this room can't readily figure out a wage schedule this complicated, how are employers and employees supposed to? The mayor and council have promised robust enforcement from a soon-to-be created city labor standards enforcement office. But with a wage schedule that has two to four different wages going for a full decade, it'll have to be pretty goddamn robust.


Comments (51) RSS

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michaelp 1
One question I'm really not clear on (and I'm hoping someone here knows the answer) - how will franchises be treated? If someone owns one or two McDonald's, for instance, does that count as "large" or "small"? Is the 500 based on total for the brand nationwide, or for what the Washington corporation actually owns?
Posted by michaelp on May 1, 2014 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Call me Scott 2
Kshama Sawant's press conference . . . was what 'manning up' looks like @MayorMurray, @CMLicata
Posted by Call me Scott on May 1, 2014 at 12:07 PM · Report this
... "Seven years is too long, but we're not going to give you $15 until long after that."

Also, wow this is insane. I suspect the people other than Sawant who didn't vote yes did so as a way of giving business more leverage. "Look, you better vote for this pile of shit, because even this pile of shit isn't ok with some businesses! They want to just bury you in shit!"
Posted by Hanoumatoi on May 1, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 4
That chart is not complicated, you just have to read it.

It is a real limp-dick plan though. Murray needs to grow a pair of whatevers and start representing the will of the people. That is, $15 no exceptions.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on May 1, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
fletc3her 5
This kind of schedule makes it harder for workers to know whether they are being paid fairly or not and makes enforcement more difficult, but it's better than nothing.
Posted by fletc3her on May 1, 2014 at 12:19 PM · Report this
This is actually better than I was expecting. It's not perfect, but the fact that business and labor both support it is huge.
Posted by not bad on May 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM · Report this
CC-Rob 7
This entire episode is useful because it clearly demonstrates that our so-called progressive city leaders are not progressive.
Posted by CC-Rob on May 1, 2014 at 12:25 PM · Report this
This plan isn't complicated at all as far as policy and law goes. It's not "$15 Now" but neither is the 15Now group's plan. I also like the plan in relation to the State's minimum wage--much better than COLA at all levels.
Posted by Gabe Global on May 1, 2014 at 12:35 PM · Report this
raku 9
Unbelievable. I don't see any details yet but it looks like the wealthy business community got everything they wanted and then some. Unethical business owners will just continue and expand mandatory splitting so that tipped employees actually make less than today -- everyone will make $11/hour only just by stealing tips from the front of house staff, and the business owners don't have to pay taxes on it. There better be a rule against that in the law that's passed, but I seriously doubt it.

It looks like Dave Meinert can go ahead and buy a 3rd mansion outside the city. His net worth just went up.
Posted by raku on May 1, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Report this
It's bullshit. Both @4 and @5 are right; it's easy to understand and to cheat.

Murray can fuck himself. Licata - huge disappointment. Huge.

Forward Seattle looks like a bunch of Astroturf garbage. They're going to choke us with their money.

Fear and confusion. The worker loses again. And on May Day. It's not $15. It's more like $13.50. And all the glowing "We won!" exuberance is just the cologne being sprayed on the turd. It reminds me of the gloating when the tunnel finally won its electoral approval. I'm beyond angry. It's fucking bullshit.
Posted by sell yourself short on May 1, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this
AlaskanWayViaducks 11
Let's all take a deep breath here:

1) Seattle will have the highest minimum wage of any city in the country. By a good margin.

2) Everyone gets to 15 and it is thereafter adjusted for inflation.

3) Big Business (the bulk of low wage workers) get there in 3-4 years. In the meantime workers get raises of $1- $1.50 per year, nothing to sneeze at.

4) Tip Credit and Health Care Credit, which the business community wanted bad, only amounts to slightly delayed phase-in, so is not a permanent fix.

Is this the plan I would have written if I were King of Seattle? of course not, but actually getting something that is pretty darn good passed is a lot better for workers.

Posted by AlaskanWayViaducks on May 1, 2014 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 12
So a firm with 499 US employees and 2499 outsourced employees in India or China is a small business?

Posted by Will in Seattle on May 1, 2014 at 12:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
@1 @3 @4 @7 @9 are correct

Should have stuck to the $22 by 2022 with a $21 training wage for small business and $15 in 2015 for all that was the original compromise
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 1, 2014 at 12:59 PM · Report this
guerre 14
How to figure out if the business you are patronizing pays a living wage:
"Excuse me manager of Tacotime, which of the 4 trauches do your employees fall under, and if I tip them in the new 'TacoTimeTipTin' does that reduce their effective wage? I see you take a health care credit, do you provide decent coverage or do most of your workers refuse to waste money on it? Oh you pay $12.23, so is that above or at minimum wage, let me pull out my handy chart, just a second I have to unfold it, okay, it looks like you are required to pay $11.50 as it is the year 2018. I guess taco bell having to pay $15.36 pushed your base wages up $0.73, so I will eat here, after holding up the line for 10 minutes."
Posted by guerre on May 1, 2014 at 1:01 PM · Report this
guerre 15
Also the WA state minimum wage COLA has been ~1.2% since 2000, I wonder why Murray is being so optimistic with a 2.4% increase.
Posted by guerre on May 1, 2014 at 1:04 PM · Report this
delirian 16
It is a compromise. Progress has been made and Seattle is on a path for a livable wage with an adjustment for inflation. This is quite an accomplishment. And it looks like enough people are on board to make it so. Certainly there will be a ballot initiative and we will see how that ends up. But it will be nice to know that this plan is the fallback position.
Posted by delirian on May 1, 2014 at 1:09 PM · Report this
MrBaker 17
I'm ready to vote now for $15 now, no exceptions.
Posted by MrBaker on May 1, 2014 at 1:13 PM · Report this
camlux 18
What a crap sandwich.
Posted by camlux on May 1, 2014 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Seems like a good deal to me, the far left and far right aren't happy that has to be a good thing. And what happens if you take $15 now to ballot and it fails?
Posted by dkjndmsahksdhksal on May 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Bruce Harrell?
Posted by hmmmmm on May 1, 2014 at 1:27 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 21
Big Business (the bulk of low wage workers)

Can you cite this? The vast majority of businesses are small businesses.
Posted by keshmeshi on May 1, 2014 at 1:40 PM · Report this
Now that we have two plans there can actually be some compromising.

In one corner, we have a three year phase in for small business. In the other, a 7 year. Let's compromise and say 5 years! And that would be meeting exactly in the middle! We could even call it the 2,3,4,5 plan!

And then there's the fact that one plan has a rather grotesque definition of small business and total compensation while the other doesn't. So, let's agree to keep the total compensation (phased out in how many years necessary) so long as the definition of small business is <300 people.

Now that's compromising.
Posted by Bloated Jesus is Bloated on May 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM · Report this
500 employees seems like a big number at which to draw the line. But if they added more categories, it gets more difficult to enforce. It would be informative to see a list of which companies fall into which bin.
Posted by wxPDX on May 1, 2014 at 1:44 PM · Report this
AlaskanWayViaducks 24

"Two-thirds of America's low-wage workers work for companies with more than a hundred employees, such as Walmart, McDonald's and Yum! Brands, parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC."…
Posted by AlaskanWayViaducks on May 1, 2014 at 1:45 PM · Report this
Fnarf 25
I think the seven-year phase-in is too long, but that chart is not difficult to read at all. It's a spreadsheet -- a small one. Have you never seen a spreadsheet before?
Posted by Fnarf on May 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM · Report this
I know you're trying to make the mayor look bad with the headline, but really it makes you look bad.
Posted by pkbrown on May 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM · Report this
OMG! This math stuff is so hard (at least for ONE reporter...)!

Yes, "15 Now" is a nice, simplistic slogan for dimwits like WIS. But that's not how you get things done, and the result is not always neat and clean.
Posted by bigyaz on May 1, 2014 at 2:03 PM · Report this
@25 Yeah, but it's a wrong spreadsheet. If we're doing "2.4% CPI estimated once $15 per hour is reached," the numbers after $15 in each column would be different. While column A is correct for 2025, all the others aren't. Column B would be $17.71, C would be $17.29 and D would be $16.49.

Make the bastards explain their math and get some assurance that they mean what's in the columns, not what's up top. This isn't a 7 year phase-in, it's an 11 year phase-in.

Anyway, which part of "$15 Now" was so hard to understand?
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 1, 2014 at 2:05 PM · Report this
@28- the first column is adjusted with CPI. The other columns adjust more quickly so that in 2025 all employers have the same minimum from that point forward. Did you even read the article? This isn't as complicated as some of you seem to think.
Posted by not bad on May 1, 2014 at 2:11 PM · Report this
"Too complicated for reporters to understand"!
Well, that is good news, It must be a pretty simple plan then......
Posted by The Realist on May 1, 2014 at 2:20 PM · Report this
@22... I agree with your compromise, but I would add one more. The end result after 5 years has to equal $15/hr in 2014 dollars, for that I would be willing to extend the total comp. phase-out to 7 years. Otherwise, let's write it up and put it in front of the council!
Posted by SimplyNotClever on May 1, 2014 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Post_Mortem 32
I'm no spreadsheet master--I haven't even opened Excel in over a decade--but that chart is fairly simple. If you have questions about just who fits where and so forth, that's one thing, but if you're truly confused, you probably shouldn't be reporting on anything involving numbers.
Posted by Post_Mortem on May 1, 2014 at 2:24 PM · Report this
I like this plan.

And I question the intelligence of people who object to it due to the "charts being too difficult".

Every business will be falling into a single one of these schedules.... I would also guess that much like the current minimum wage and workers comp charts that already must, by state law, be posted in every workplace, that the same will continue. People will be able to tell if they are being paid correctly because the city should require the *One* chart that applies to their employees, to be clearly posted. It is not up to an employee (or even really the employer) to define which chart is used. It is up to the city and it's auditors.

As for the plan itself, I am not bothered by it's phased in approach. The phasing allows all businesses time to adjust to the new reality, and in 7 years, it is moot. We should have a *permanent* wage floor that grows with inflation.

The nay-Sayers should tread carefully: I suspect that those that object to this plan, are probably pretty evenly split between those that think the wage is too high, and those that think it doesn't come fast enough. The middle ground is the clear winner here, which in time will have the desired long term effect of a livable wage for all.
Posted by bgix on May 1, 2014 at 2:52 PM · Report this
A pleasure to read everyones comments here. Most of you seem rational and able to prove your claims. Is this the internet im on??? I cant believe my eyes lol:)
Posted by Pepper132 on May 1, 2014 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Once again, liberals rack up all the political costs inherent in trying to do something useful while not getting all the benefits that come from actually doing something useful. Way to go, "centrists"!
Posted by stating the obvious on May 1, 2014 at 3:46 PM · Report this
OMG - What am I supposed to do... like read ALL 10 LINES and attempt to understand them? Can't they just, like, tweet it or something? Spreadsheets are like so confusing...

Are you serious? This is what passes for "too complicated" for some people? Suck it up and do the reading.

Christ, we're acting like a city full of 7th graders with ADD.

If your public policy fits in a tweet or on a bumper sticker it's WORSE, not better.
Posted by nullbull on May 1, 2014 at 4:54 PM · Report this
Will there be any safeguards against companies splitting up on paper to avoid hitting that 500 employee "small business" threshold? I mean, if I own a business that has twenty locations throughout the city, with over 500 employees total, what will stop me from incorporating half of them under one name and half under another so that I end up with two distinct parent companies each with under 300 employees? I guess that eventually all businesses will be paying the same wage under this plan, but until 2025 there could be a lot of room for employers to undermine the its intent. I am guessing that there will be companies using a lot of legal maneuvering to end up qualifying for schedule D.
Posted by fireandskill on May 1, 2014 at 7:36 PM · Report this
@36 There are eleven lines (plus two more in the left-hand box, not counting whitespace). Counting is hard, eh?

@37 One thing I wonder about... If there is a pay differential between employers, wouldn't employees gravitate towards the higher payers, potentially starving the lower payers of the best employees?

Well... Another thing I wonder about is, how the fuck will this pass constitutional muster? Similarly situated employees, doing the same or very similar jobs being mandated different minimum pay levels? Seems like an equal rights problem to me.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 1, 2014 at 8:01 PM · Report this
How many people are going to be thrown of their homes because they can't afford the rent or work themselves to death by the time the Mw becomes $15??

Posted by Fallbreaker on May 2, 2014 at 12:19 AM · Report this
@raku you are an idiot, really. What do you do for work? Have you ever owned a business!? All local businesses are wealthy? You have to be kidding me! So many business owners are operating business owners, they own a business because it is their passion it was their dream. I thought the American dream was about working your way up, maybe opening your own business one day. Now apparently it's a crime if you are too successful. Quit lumping local business owners in with large corporations. This business owners fucking care about their employees, their jobs, their contributions to Seattle! Unlike walmart who intentionally tries to keep their employees at a disadvantage but wait we don't have any walmarts in Seattle so let's attack the local businesses now. Don't make stupid remarks until you're educated and knows what it takes to run a business. Let's not be ignorant
Posted by Bridget206 on May 2, 2014 at 6:13 AM · Report this
Whoaaaaaa. I find the headline of this article alone disquieting.
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 2, 2014 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Holy Moses! Its complicated....that would be the understatement of the year!

Its a freaking nightmare!

Lets see if anybody can figure out what they are supposed to be paid hourly with this chart, after figuring in the adjustments for:

health insurance
tip credit
other "credits/adjustments" yet to be added once the Seattle "Silly Council" gets a crack at it.

and then phase it all in over 5 to 7 years and do some CPI adjustments in there somewhere.

I doubt somebody holding an advanced degree could dope this out.

I wonder, are they actually naive enough to believe that someone earning minimum wage currently would have the ability to compute this.

Posted by mistral on May 2, 2014 at 1:11 PM · Report this
@42 mistral -- I will use myself as an example. I work for a large (>500) company that pays for my health insurance. I don't get tips, but the imputed value of the health insurance (based on Cover Washington) is about $5.75/hr. I fall under Schedule B, and my minimum wage would be based on that chart.

That took me about 2-5 seconds to figure out.
Posted by bgix on May 2, 2014 at 3:27 PM · Report this
Okay--I just read Anna Minard's related article wrap-up of Mayor Ed Murray's and Seattle City Council's decision on raising the minimum wage city-wide.
That's more encouraging.
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 2, 2014 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Texas10R 45
Anna Minard and "Reporters Can't Understand" the "Minimum Wage Plan" because it's "So Complicated"– It requires the ability to read and comprehend a table – very much like those ypu would use to file your taxes. Okay, so it makes your hair hurt to think so hard, but try not to inflict your ineptitude upon your loyal and curious readers, Mayor Ed's stupid plan notwithstanding.
Posted by Texas10R on May 2, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Texas10R 46
Not as easy as a table (And it really isn't a "spreadsheet" so don't call it that.):

The CPI (consumer price index), or better yet, the "chained" CPI.
It's basically a scam that assumes everyone buys the same things. The Chain-CPI assumes everyone will buy cheaper things. (Hello, Mal-Mart. How ya doin'?) It's a lousy substitute for COLA (cost of living allowance) or the next best: inflation indexing, in which the minimum goes up, keeping pace with inflation.

Just for fun:…

Posted by Texas10R on May 2, 2014 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Texas10R 47
"• The difference between large and small business is indeed 500 full-time employees, (this includes employees nationally, not just in Seattle)"

Actually, the "difference" between >500 full-time employees and <500 full-time employees employee.
Oh no, – more arithmetic!
Posted by Texas10R on May 2, 2014 at 5:20 PM · Report this
If the "Reporters Can't Understand It" they must be pretty dumb
Posted by wsdw on May 2, 2014 at 7:23 PM · Report this
Ah well , that's fruits for ya. No sense whatsoever . Soon he will be in a tizzy.
Posted by Howie Feltersnatch on May 3, 2014 at 1:50 AM · Report this
The strategy here is "obfuscate, complicate, divide, and conquer". Murray and his business string pullers hope that you'll waste your energy trying to figure out what's in his proposal and your time arguing and nitpicking over the details.

Further, it's a safe bet that a scheme this convoluted offers plenty of chances for a decade of litigation and to it's proponents, that's a feature not a bug.

Good luck.
Posted by Homple on May 3, 2014 at 7:36 AM · Report this
@47, how long did it take you to come up with that nugget? Or, perhaps it fell out of your ass while you were getting a douche from some Craig's List "rent boy"?
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on May 5, 2014 at 8:02 PM · Report this

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