Is the $15 minimum wage just like mandatory composting, parking meters, and sick leave?

Big restaurant lobby group claims the sky is falling once again

Same group offers same arguments, same concerns, and same predictions they made on impact of sick leave, parking costs, mandatory composting, and more

Late yesterday, Josh McDonald of the Washington Restaurant Association sent an open letter to City Council asking for major changes to the IIAC’s consensus recommendations to reach a $15 minimum wage for Seattle in order to “minimize hardships to the restaurant industry”. The arguments, concerns, and predictions are uncannily similar to what the Restaurant Association has previously said about the impact of sick leave, parking costs, inflation adjustments to the minimum wage, and even mandatory composting. As the examples below demonstrate, these claims — made to many of the very same councilmembers serving today — have been consistently incorrect.

The WRA on Seattle’s landmark paid sick leave law:

September 16, 2011, Puget Sound Business Journal

Businesses throughout the city tried to work with the proponents and councilmembers to draft language we could make workable in restaurants. Unfortunately, much of what we put on the table was rejected,” Seattle Restaurant Alliance spokesman Josh McDonald said in a statement. “The restaurant industry continues to struggle in this economy; this ordinance could make it even harder on them. We just don’t know.”

May 9, 2011, Seattle Times

Many small-business and restaurant owners oppose the idea, saying the costs could be staggering to operations with small profit margins and a large number of part-time employees.

“One Seattle restaurant owner estimated this would cost him between $65,000 and $175,000 a year. Where is that going to come from? Do I cut wages, raises, paid vacation days? What do I do?” asked Josh McDonald, director of local government affairs for the Washington Restaurant Association.

The result, he said, could be fewer jobs and fewer benefits.

The WRA on Seattle’s landmark mandatory composting law:

April 21, 2010, Seattle Times

Josh McDonald, a state and local government affairs spokesman with the Washington Restaurant Association, said his group is concerned about the costs. "Some (pieces) will be close to even, and some will be 100 times more per piece. When you add it up, that means increased costs.

He acknowledged that Seattle will be one of the few places in the country with such a broad edict. “Because we’re the only place in the country to have these requirements, the packaging is still thought boutique and with it will carry a boutique price tag.”

McDonald said restaurants operate on a 4.5 percent profit margin and 11,000 jobs were lost in the last quarter because of the economy, so there is a concern about the extra costs that will be generated by the new packaging rules. He didn’t know whether the costs would be passed on to the customers or simply absorbed.

The WRA on our state’s inflation-adjusted minimum wage:

October 2, 2008, Puget Sound Business Journal

On Jan. 1, the state’s minimum wage will rise 48 cents to $8.55 an hour — a hike that the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) said will be “crippling” to the industry.

“The combination of the rising minimum wage and increases in the cost of food, gas and delivery charges are taking a toll on the state’s largest private employer. This is the time for steady leadership and an understanding of the issues crippling our small businesses statewide. Without strong leadership, we could find restaurants closing their doors and employees being laid off,” said Anthony Anton, WRA president and CEO, in a statement.

The WRA on Seattle’s parking meter hours:

March 25, 2012, Seattle Times (opinion column by Josh McDonald of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance)

Last year, when the city of Seattle adopted its extended parking hours, it created a hurdle for customers visiting restaurants, bars and taverns in certain areas of downtown Seattle.

With paid, on-street parking expanded to 8 p.m. from 6 p.m., these customers became saddled with an additional two hours of parking expense. That, in turn, forced them to decide whether to patronize businesses in zones with the extended hours, while potentially diminishing the amount of money they were willing to spend on a night out.

Our wish is that the city not create this type of obstacle between customers and businesses.

When City Councilmember Tim Burgess and others took on the task of shifting our city’s on-street paid-parking program from a revenue-based model to a market-based approach, the Seattle Restaurant Alliance listened cautiously. We understood the value, and tried to help create the best result possible.


We are also finding that the extended parking hours are having the unintended consequence of creating a public safety issue and a financial burden on our employees. We are one of only a few industries that keep their doors open until 2 a.m. Expecting our employees to simply take the bus at that hour is not always a reasonable option. For those who must drive, the additional two hours of paid parking require them to spend another $6 to $8 per shift. This amount is not trivial to our employees. […]

We look forward to working with the city to achieve a solution that is mutually sensitive to the needs of the restaurant community and the city’s revenue objectives. Let’s avoid placing obstacles between Seattle’s world-class dining scene and the customers who are eager to enjoy it.

More information:

As detailed in our report “The Sky Remains Aloft”, business lobby groups have been making these kinds of mistaken claims & threat about labor standards for more than a century.


Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington: