This week, the co-owner of the Kennewick restaurant called The Country Gentleman issued the typical Chicken Little threats about what would happen if Washington votes for Initiative 1433 to raise the minimum wage. They claimed higher wages would “hurt restaurant employees,” that the increase will “hurt” and that the restaurant simply “can’t absorb” the increase. They ended their comments with a dramatic “I — I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Well, we do know what’s going to happen — we have a pretty good idea at least.
Because this is at least the sixth time in the past six years that owners of this very restaurant have made eerily similar Chicken Little predictions about the impact of raising wages to $8.67, $9.04, $9.32, and more… and yet the sky has remained aloft. In fact, jobs and business continue to grow in the Washington restaurant industry.
The reason why is pretty simple: when more people have more money, that means more customers for more businesses — like, say, more people who can afford dinner out at a restaurant for a birthday or other occasion.)
Anyway, it’s been quite a 6-year run:
12/29/2010: Claimed increasing minimum wage to $8.67/hour would mean fewer hours and fewer jobs — which didn’t happen.
We start in 2010, when the owner of Country Gentleman supported a lawsuit attempting to block a 12-cent increase to the state minimum wage. He claimed that increasing the wage to $8.67/hour could result in “cut hours and even jobs” because it would mean that “the cost of having an employee has become very expensive” and would cost the restaurant “hundreds” of dollars each month.
9/29/2011: Claimed increasing minimum wage above $8.67/hour would mean fewer hours and fewer jobs — which still didn’t happen.
Then the owner of Country Gentleman told reporters that an increase to the minimum wage above $8.67/hour would “affect the hours that we offer employees” and also “the number of people we have employed.” While he admitted that previous threats had not come true, he claimed that “things don’t look as good for 2012” and that “it will be be extraordinarily difficult” to stay in business.
12/28/2011: Claimed minimum wage rising to $9.04/hour would mean fewer hours and higher prices — which still didn’t happen.
As 2011 drew to a close, the owner of Country Gentleman said that the higher minimum wage mean had “had to examine” prices and schedules, because “the cost for business owners will add up fast”.
12/31/2013: Claimed increase minimum wage to $9.32/hour would mean fewer hours and higher prices — which still didn’t happen.
In 2013, the owner of the Country Gentleman claimed that a 13-cent increase in the minimum wage would “require many adjustments” such as “reduced hours” or “raise the prices”.
Sometime in 2015: Claimed a higher minimum wage would mean cut jobs or cut hours — which still didn’t happen.
When the State Legislature considered raising the minimum wage to $12/hour, the owner of the Country Gentleman recorded a video for the Association of Washington Business, the state’s big business lobby group (and opponent of raising wages) that higher wages would force him to cut jobs, cut hours, or worse.
It’s all pretty ridiculously repetitive, and also pretty consistent: tomorrow’s disaster is always just one more minimum wage increase away…
(By the way, it gets even weirder: in February 2013 the owner of the same restaurant told the State Senate that the use of renewable energy in our state was costing him $1,200 a year, “another burden” when businesses are “trying to recover and start hiring.” Are there any other ways the minimum wage is similar to wind power?)
This is the way it always seems to happen — anti-worker types try to raise a ruckus with Chicken Little predictions about how the sky will fall if we improve labor standards. They’ve been pulling the same act since we made child labor illegal (they said that would hurt department stores), and yet the sky remains aloft. And it will remain aloft still when we pass Initiative 1433 to raise Washington’s minimum wage to $13.50/hour over the next four years.
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