Lesson for other cities & states considering higher wages — very same businesses that predicted disaster a year ago are now hiring, expanding, and reinvesting as Seattle economy grows stronger
A year ago today, Mayor Murray signed the nation’s first citywide $15 minimum wage into law. And despite dire predictions that the city would collapse into an economic wasteland, the sky remains aloft.
In fact, in just the last year, many of the very same business owners and others who predicted devastation are now hiring and even expanding their business operations in the city:
- Political commentators, economists, and other self-appointed experts predicted unemployment would rise, 20,000 jobs would be lost, and small businesses would go under... now unemployment down to 3.3% and business licenses rising.
- Owner of Liberty Bar predicts “local independent businesses WILL close”... now opening second bar.
- Owner of Lam’s Seafood Market says $15 “would literally be devastating” and might make them pick up and move to Texas... now building 60% parking lot expansion.
- Owner of Holiday Inn Express said he was “very afraid” of minimum wage “experiment that could go wrong”... now hiring.
- Owner of Poppy says $15 without a tip credit would “jeopardize” his business... now opens second restaurant.
- Owner Coastal Kitchen & Mioposto says it’s “not one of those Chicken Little moments,” and he “certainly won’t open another business in our beloved Seattle”... then opens two more businesses in Seattle.
- Tom Douglas says $15 will force a quarter of restaurants in the city to close, maybe shutter some of his... then keeps on opening more restaurants.
- Subway owners said Seattle $15 law would make businesses "cease to exist" in Seattle and raise prices $1/sub... now opening restaurants, advertising high wages, and only raising prices 4%.
- Ethan Stowell Restaurants predicts $17 hamburgers and a halt to new restaurants... then opens 3 new restaurants in next year, realizing “ultimately it’s really good for the industry”.
- Owner of Pagliacci threatens to eliminate tips and move jobs to Renton... now expanding in Seattle and hiring aggressively.
- Seattle Times columnist says we should "follow the pho" to see negative impact of higher wages... and three new pho places have opened since then.
- Owner of Dick’s Drive-In says raising prices would "have to be our first response" and benefits would "have to be on the table"... then does not raise prices or cut benefits.
None of these confident, year-old predictions about economic devastation have come to pass. Quite the opposite. Seattle remains one of the fastest-growing large cities in the country. Unemployment is low. And new restaurants are opening every day. But that hasn’t stopped business lobby groups from trying to pull the same sky-is-falling routine across Washington and across the country as more cities and states debate raising wages.
There’s no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer. A year after Seattle’s $15 law was signed into law, it’s true that there hasn’t yet been time yet for businesses to really see the benefit of increased consumer demand from 100,000 people having more money to put back into the economy. But one thing is abundantly clear: the sky remains aloft.
Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington, firstname.lastname@example.org