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Friday, May 2, 2014

How's the Seattle Minimum Wage Deal Looking to the Rest of the Nation?

Posted by on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Well, the front page of Huffington Post seemed impressed yesterday:

The mayor of Seattle announced Thursday that he'd developed a plan for a $15 minimum wage that had wide backing from the city's lawmakers, labor leaders and business community.

The proposal unveiled by Mayor Ed Murray would gradually raise the city's minimum wage from $9.32 to $15 over the course of three to seven years, making it the highest city wage floor in the nation.

That headline up there? "Seattle Plans $15 Minimum Wage"? That is why labor is celebrating a win this week. All the nuance we're discussing here is important, but the overall plan, the headline version, is shockingly grand in a country where the federal minimum wage is still $7.25. And the fact that the headline exists at all, even if it's Seattle-specific, is thanks to a widespread movement. The movement—built by organizations and also many individual workers—has pushed hard to create a context in which a quick rise to a $15 minimum wage sounds like a reasonable goal here in Seattle and enjoys wide support. Because think about it: A year or two ago? A $15 minimum wage seemed kind of bonkers. This took a lot of work, and it will benefit tens of thousands of people here in Seattle, for sure—and then, if the trend continues, perhaps millions more across the nation.

In the New York Times, Seattle was cast as a beyond-liberal utopia:

The plan, which in many other cities might be seen as a liberal Democratic agenda at the frontier of social and economic engineering, was immediately attacked not from the mayor’s right, but from his left.

The LA Times compared it to the national minimum-wage fail this week:

A day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate quashed an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a proposal Thursday for a $15 municipal minimum wage that he said would "improve the lives of workers who can barely afford to live" in this high-tech city on Puget Sound.

It also looks like a cute Facebook meme.

Eric Liu, a member of the mayor's advisory committee, has a long piece at the Atlantic in which he says, among other things: "This is, as the vice president might say, a big f-ing deal."

Fox News buried it in a long story about May Day arrests. (So you know it must be damn important.)

And it looked like a fucking revolution over on Quartz, which reframed $15 in a fascinating way:

That hourly wage would effectively be the world’s highest government-set minimum rate in a major city, unless Switzerland adopts a $25 minimum wage in a referendum scheduled for later this month. While other economies have higher minimum wages in exchange-rate terms (Australia’s is roughly $16 an hour), when you take into account spending power, the highest current minimum wage is Luxembourg’s, at the equivalent of $13.35 an hour.

Here in Seattle, we're gonna get down in the weeds and analyze every little line of the graph and box of the chart and the math of inflation and the length of the phase-ins—and we should. We totally should, because we need to get this right. The broader movement has done such good work that we can barely pause to celebrate that headline, because we're moving on to the next phase. That's its own wonky win. But it's also nice to take a step back for a second and look at the bigger picture of success that this nerdy little Seattle-process deal represents.


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Three cheers for Anna Minard.
Posted by M. Wells on May 2, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Report this
No, friend. Fifteen cheers for Anna Minard. It's the way we do things here now.
Posted by themightywoozie on May 2, 2014 at 3:11 PM · Report this
Good news is Seattle will now be swarmed with lots of qualified workers, meaning I won't have to hire the fuckups anymore.
Posted by Actual Employer on May 2, 2014 at 3:11 PM · Report this
gttrgst 4
Thanks Goldy!
Posted by gttrgst on May 2, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this
Why not report on how HA Blog sees the min wage?

"$15 in 2017 Dollars, by 2025"

For many workers that's exactly what the mayor is proposing.

Also, Goldy points out that the mayor's proposed wage table assumes a 2.4% inflation rate-- close to double the rate we've had the last few years. So the mayor's numbers likely exaggerate the post-$15/hr wages Seattle workers will receive.

Why did the Stranger fire the only legitimate wonk on staff?? You kids are lost without Grandpa Goldstein to walk you through the policy fine print.
Posted by tacky on May 2, 2014 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 6
Face it, the only sane compromise would have been $22 by 2022 with a $21 training wage for teens, zero exemptions, and $15 for everyone in 2015.

Real wages for productivity minimum wage should be $27 today.

You're still serfs and my investments show the difference.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM · Report this
This is truly an excellent and well-written piece, Anna Minard. Thank you!

Fifteen well-deserved kudos and shout-outs to you, and everyone looking
into every economic graph and pie chart that this new bar Seattle Mayor Ed
Murray and the City Council have raised nationally and globally.
It is important for our region to continue studying the pros and cons of what
the overall impact will be over the next seven years and beyond, and to adjust
for inflation and future generations.
Posted by auntie grizelda on May 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
Tangentially; a bonus of this passing could be to help curb the proliferation of formula retail in Seattle since I haven't heard anything about city hall taking up that cause.
Posted by Dougsf on May 2, 2014 at 3:56 PM · Report this
DavidG 9
Next stop: Maximum wage. Bring back the state high-earners income tax! We need that on the ballot every single year until it passes.
Posted by DavidG on May 2, 2014 at 3:59 PM · Report this
schmacky 10
I guess you missed this one:…
Posted by schmacky on May 2, 2014 at 3:59 PM · Report this

still waiting for Schill in Seattle to explain how a burger flipper in 2014 is over 50% more efficient and productive than a burger flipper in 1968.

Have burger flippers upped their game? Are they flipping twice as many burgers in a one hour span that before?

Are waiters and waitresses 50% more efficient and productive than in 1968.

cmon now you chump - answer the question honestly....wait - you cant, because then it destroys your "we are underpaid!" mythos.

The truth you hate to admit, is that occupations who's productivity has increased over the last 45 years have also seen huge wage increases...and guess what, those occupations dont pay, and never had paid, minimum wage - they always paid much much more.

Dont they teach you schills how to understand and examine facts over at UW?
Posted by you cant stand the truth on May 2, 2014 at 4:11 PM · Report this
can someone please name one or two minimum wage occupations that are 50%+ more efficient and productive than they were in 1968?

Cmon now - lets see the list.....

its the basis of your argument...surely you can name just a few of these super efficient minimum wage occupations.....

Posted by whats behind door #3? on May 2, 2014 at 4:18 PM · Report this
evolume 13
@10 Oh fuck Slate and their click farming.
Posted by evolume on May 2, 2014 at 4:31 PM · Report this
this proposal is not in place because of a nerdy seattle process. the nerdy seattle process happened because a bunch of activists pushed Sawant forward, she adopted this goal, she made murray adopt it, she and they the activists kept at it, most recently having a big socialist convention threatening quite seriously to do a charter amendment to get us to 415 by 1/1/15 -- this grass roots pressure is what is making the political leaders like murray and the 1%ers resopnd. NOT seattle process. NOTHING about Sawant and $15 now is seattle process. it's the opposite of seattle process. and see how it's working?

Posted by seattle process? oh puhleeze on May 2, 2014 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Cascadian 15
Troll @11, actually, a burger-flipper in 2014 is almost certainly 50% or more productive than a similar worker in 1968, thanks to technology. What has happened since 1968 is that all the productivity gains of technology have gone to business owners and executives rather than to workers at large. There's no reason why those productivity gains shouldn't be distributed.

If you adjust for productivity, depending upon how you measure it, the national minimum wage would be somewhere between $16 and $22/hour. So $15/hour does not quite capture the proportional gains of productivity since 1968, even assuming the lower number.

This is also why we should be indexing to per capita productivity gains and not inflation.
Posted by Cascadian on May 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM · Report this
I tend to think of this the same way I think of the smoking ban and the plastic bag ban in Seattle. Imperfect, but I'd rather have it than not have it.
Posted by Jenkitty on May 2, 2014 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Troll @15

what technology would that be?

hotter grills? pre-measured condiments?

sorry - I am not buying that bullshit.

the people and jobs that are infinitely more productive now than 40 years ago ALREADY make well beyond minimum wage.

sweeping a fucking floor with a broom has not changed in 200 years...

cleaning a toilet now is the same as it was when Nixon was president.

and being a lazy POS still pays now what it paid then - not much.
Posted by super efficient burger flipper! on May 2, 2014 at 4:55 PM · Report this
@15: "What has happened since 1968 is that all the productivity gains of technology have gone to business owners and executives rather than to workers at large."

Who paid for that technology? The owners. So yes, they are the ones who should get the benefit of their investment. Likewise, if the workers were the ones who invested in technological improvements for their companies, then the benefits would be theirs, but that's not who's investing in the technology, is it?
Posted by wait on May 2, 2014 at 4:56 PM · Report this
My concern is that as the tipped credit gets phased out in full service restaurants it will depress & stagnate kitchen wages, the group most deserving of a raise & where you are most likely to find minorities. Think about it for every kitchen guy there are at least 2 tipped employees. So the kitchen guy gets a $1/hr bump from $15 to $15 if he wasn't; there already, but the two tipped employees who already make over $20/hr each get a raise of $5.68 each. So of the $12.36 wage increases for these 3 employees the kitchen guy only see 8% of the increase, while the tipped employees see the other 92% of the increase. As tipped employees take more & more of the labor budget, as tip credit gets phased out, there will be less & less for kitchen raises & advancement.
Posted by fix the proposal on May 2, 2014 at 5:02 PM · Report this
@17, well yeah. Do you remember 1968? Fast food places are a lot faster than they used to be.

@18, who did all the real work so the owner could "invest" in fast food "technology?" The employee, that's who.
Posted by GermanSausage on May 2, 2014 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 21
i'm just excited that tipping can go back to a rational 15% on pre-tax total.
Posted by Max Solomon on May 2, 2014 at 5:08 PM · Report this
CC-Rob 22
Anna said: Think about it: A year or two ago? A $15 minimum wage seemed kind of bonkers. This took a lot of work, and it will benefit tens of thousands of people here in Seattle, for sureā€”and then, if the trend continues, perhaps millions more across the nation. ...

Golly. How did this whole thing come about? There seems to be something missing from this story? I have a vague recollection of a person who ran for council with this issue as their centerpiece. Hmmm...
Posted by CC-Rob on May 2, 2014 at 5:52 PM · Report this
It all goes to prove the validity of the logic for electing Sawant: shift the parameters of the debate to the left. This would not have happened without her victory, and the need of the Establishment liberals to co-opt and defuse it.
Posted by Blackcap on May 2, 2014 at 7:52 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 24

Remember that time Goldy was fired from The Stranger for being a worthless turd, that is proof positive that not every worker is worth $15 an hour.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on May 2, 2014 at 8:57 PM · Report this
This news just in: The mayor has decided to phase-in his plan to eliminate restaurants and bars from Seattle. Instead of creating a large-scale Tenderloin District right away, as encouraged by economic laureate Kshama Sawant, the City has decided to phase-in "Operation Detroit" over the next 3-5 years.

Uncertainty exists as to the fate of current low-wage workers who discover fewer jobs, a higher cost of living, reduced hours, even higher productivity expectations, increased competition, and elimination of their Federal earned income tax credit.

The City has not yet determined where at least one (please just one), member of Council will take a very basic economics class in future, as the resources for Seattle Public Schools will now come under further serious pressure.

The announcement was greeted by nostalgists for the City's retro economic plans, who burned cars, threatened commuters, and broke windows on Capitol Hill in recognition: And by Vladimir Putin who commented from Kiev, "Dang, I thought everyone was going to do Kleptocracy a little longer. But Seattle is the sociopolitical tastemaker, and I guess 'throwback' is the thing that all the hep kids are doin' now."
Posted by Zok on May 2, 2014 at 11:18 PM · Report this
@25 FTW!

Posted by losers always lose on May 3, 2014 at 12:29 AM · Report this
Nieuw Hollander 27
Hooray! $15 is the minimum wage in Seattle now!

What, it isn't? Well, when will it be?

Who's declaring victory here, and why? All I see is a watered-down proposal from a watered-down mayor with no actual force of law. Wake me up when actual paychecks reflect a $15 minimum wage. Until then, stop cheering.
Posted by Nieuw Hollander on May 3, 2014 at 7:21 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 28
A shame there is no more actual policy analysis now that Goldy was ousted. Instead we just get posts of simple graphs talking about how they are "too hard" to understand.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on May 3, 2014 at 8:52 AM · Report this

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