UW Study on Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage: Part 1—Head of UW study paints dismal picture for young, inexperienced and unskilled workers

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
Apr 22, 2016
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On the heels of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s launch of the Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative to encourage businesses to hire young workers in the city, comes a warning of tough times ahead for that demographic.

University of Washington Professor Jacob Vigdor is the head of the study commissioned by the city of Seattle to gauge the impacts of the city’s $15 minimum wage law.  According to Vigdor, young workers in Seattle looking for their first job are going to be in “a tough position.”

“What we are hearing from many employers is that these days, if they are going to be paying as much as they have to pay they are not taking a chance on a teenager, they are looking for a more experienced worker to fill that job.”

In a radio interview with John Carlson on KVI yesterday, Vigdor said businesses in Seattle report that if “they are going to be paying $13 an hour or $15 an hour, they need someone who is worth that amount of money.”  Added Vigdor, “You [an employer] need to be really sure you’re going to get your money’s worth out of this employee.” 

Vigdor explained:

“With the minimum wage, you are going to have winners and losers.  The good workers who are really skilled, experienced and productive will be more valuable than ever, they’ll keep their jobs, work more hours.  Employers need to have the more productive workers if they’re going to be paying that much.  The less productive workers, because they’re inexperienced or they just don’t have the good work ethic or habits that employers are looking for, they’re going to be on the short end of things.”

Vigdor went on to explain that he does not expect his own children to be able to find a job in Seattle:

“I have a couple of teenagers myself and sort of realize that in the Seattle economy of today they shouldn’t be expecting to find paid work. If they want to get some work experience they are going to be doing things like unpaid internship.  In a family like mine, that’s okay, but for a lot of young people out there, this could be really problematic.”

Given the propensity of young people to support Bernie Sanders and his promises of free stuff, perhaps Seattle’s youngest workers won’t mind working for free.