Even Liberal Activists Think a $15 Minimum Wage Goes Too Far

February 26, 2014

As the City of Seattle continues pressing forward with plans to impose a $15 minimum wage, some of the city’s most liberal business owners and nonprofit organizations are sounding the alarm.

In the past week, The Seattle Times has featured three prominently left-leaning business owners who say a $15 minimum wage will hurt their business.

Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of a chain of ice cream shops, is an active member of the progressive Main Street Alliance of Washington, which advocates for mandated paid sick leave, rails against  “the wealthiest people and large corporations” who don’t pay their fair share and counts Obamacare among its top accomplishments.  Neitzel hosted the Democrat press conference last week pushing a higher federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, but says the $15 wage under consideration in Seattle might go too far. 

Neitzel told the Times says she pays her ice cream scoopers the state minimum wage of $9.32 an hour and they average an additional $10 an hour in tips.  Washington is one of just seven states that does not allow a tip credit toward the minimum wage, so her ice cream scoopers are earning around $19 an hour.  Increasing that wage to $15 an hour (plus tips) might hurt her company says Neitzel.   Of course, she says big corporations like McDonald’s would have no problem paying a $15 wage, ignoring that fact that 90% of the nation’s 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants are owned and operated by independent, small business owners.

Restaurant owner John Platt, described by the Times as a “liberal do-gooder” who routinely feeds the homeless, volunteers at public schools and organizes fundraisers for environmental causes, offered a stronger opinion of Seattle’s proposed $15 minimum wage.  Calling such a wage “outlandish” and “radical,” Platt said he would be forced to either close his business or eliminate the health coverage he currently provides.  Platt said the wage movement is becoming “cultlike,” with dissenters, regardless of their liberal resume, being attacked for being “too rich” or “exploiting the working poor.”

Bill Hobson, director of Seattle’s nonprofit Downtown Emergency Service Center, says a $15 minimum wage would be devastating to his organization’s efforts to help the homeless.  Calling himself a “1960s radical,” Hobson says the he supports the idea of such a high wage, but he simply cannot pay an additional $1.25 million to the 520 full-time employees who work for the center.  A $15 wage would force him to cut services, which include providing shelter, care and counseling to the city’s thousands of homeless people.   

Hobson gave voice to one the most often ignored aspects of increasing the minimum wage—it comes with a cost: “We can’t talk about income inequality and act like the $15 wage is cost-free, with the burden borne only by someone else. We have to address how we’re going to pay for it.”

Scores of other small business owners have expressed their opposition to a $15 minimum wage, warning city leaders they would be forced to lay off employees, raise prices or even close their business.   One quipped the wage would make Seattle “the city of the $18 hamburger.”