Measure to lift minimum wage to $13.50 statewide has Washington divided

October 15, 2016
The Seattle Times
Janet I. Tu

… Several business groups oppose [Initiative 1433], saying that while Seattle’s booming economy can support a high minimum wage, the rest of the state isn’t faring so well. Boosting the minimum wage in those areas could lead to higher prices and cuts in jobs and work hours, they say.

“We’re mostly a minimum-wage area as it is,” said Sandra Bain, owner of Magoo’s Restaurant in Omak, Okanogan County. “We have to keep our prices down. There’s so much unemployment and people on welfare.”

At the restaurant she’s owned for 26 years, Bain employs six people, three earning minimum wage. I-1433 would affect her bottom line, just as she faces increases in taxes, insurance rates and food costs.

“We’ll have to pass it on to the consumers,” she added. “And a lot of the consumers around here can’t afford it.” …

Opponents of I-1433 say that by raising the cost of doing business, the initiative would likely lead to job or work-hour cuts and businesses leaving the state.

Yvette Ollada, spokeswoman for No on I-1433, said that while Washington has one of the highest minimum wages, it also has one of the highest unemployment rates.

Washington’s 5.7 percent jobless rate in August tied for sixth highest in the country. And while King County enjoyed a low 3.9 percent unemployment rate in August, the rates in other counties were higher — sometimes significantly so.

The economy of the state, she said, “is not Seattle. There’s not a big boom here.”

Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association, said I-1433’s first jump to $11 in January doesn’t give businesses enough time to plan, and that the initiative “tries to make a single solution for the whole state,” to the detriment of restaurants in rural communities.

The average sales per site for a restaurant in King County last year, for example, was $1.08 million, while it was $647,000 in Yakima County, he said.