In Seattle, 15Now! becomes 15Later!

May 1, 2014

Mayor Ed Murray today announced his plan to impose a $15 minimum wage on Seattle’s economy.  The proposal appears to have near unanimous support from the mayors’ Income Inequality Advisory Committee and will likely be fast tracked by the Seattle City Council. 

Under Murray’s plan the radical left-wing call for 15Now! becomes 15Later! In some cases, the law would protect citizens from the $15 minimum wage mandate for up to seven years.  Large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more employees (nationally), who do not offer health care benefits would have to pay all workers $15 per hour by 2017.   Large employers who do offer health care benefits would have until 2018 to pay the full $15 wage. 

Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, would have seven years to reach a $15 per hour minimum wage.  A "temporary compensation responsibility" of $15 an hour must be met within the first five years, which can be achieved by combining employer-paid health care contributions, tips received from consumers, and wages. 

Once the $15 wage mandate is reached, seven years from now, future annual increases would be tied to inflation. 

Activists at 15Now have also back-peddled to 15Later!  They want to impose the strictest mandate on business with 250 or more employees by January 2015, with small business and non-profit groups by 2018.  Smaller wage increases would be imposed in the meantime. 

15Now would not allow for any inclusion of tips or other non-wage compensation toward the $15 wage, but would allow an exemption for members of the labor union representing hospitality workers. 

Publicly, backers argue the high minimum wage is a win-win for employers and employees, saying minimum wage workers would spend more as consumers and boost the economy (which is not how economics works, since employers have to take the money for the higher mandated wage from somewhere).

The many delays and exemptions proposed by Mayor Murray and 15Now means they are aware of the pain their harsh top-down mandate would impose on both employers and workers at Seattle small businesses and non-profit organizations.  Otherwise, why not enact a real 15Now! – impose the high-wage mandate on everyone, starting on June 1st. 

Further proof is offered by the fact that executives at some of Seattle’ powerful labor unions cynically want their own members to be exempted from the 15Now mandate, even as they call loudly for the rule to be imposed on others.  A union spokesperson said, “We didn’t want the unintended consequence to be that [their current health plan] gets stripped away,” apparently unaware that non-union workers have the same concern. 

The union is part of the 15Now coalition, yet now admits that losing employee benefits to meet the cost of the $15 minimum wage mandate would leave its own members worse off. 

Of course, employers of all sizes across all industries have warned that a $15 wage will force them to cut employee benefits, but 15Now activists only want to protect dues-paying union workers from harmful impacts. 

When backers of a government mandate call for delays, exemptions and letting their own members opt out, it’s a good indicator they know their policy will come at a heavy cost.  In the case of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, a better slogan might be, “15Now! or 15Later! – either way, it’s going to hurt.”