Seattle gains some converts to the church of a higher minimum wage
Elaine Thompson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sally J. Clark, a member of the Seattle City Council that approved a raise in Seattle’s minimum wage from $9.32 per hour to $15, wants everyone to know “there's method to our madness,” according to a piece she wrote for CNN.com.
“The $15 per hour figure is a bit art and a bit science, but it's close to what experts say it costs in our area for a full-time worker to meet basic needs,” Clark explained. “A higher minimum wage means more stable individuals, families, neighborhoods and towns.”
Upping the minimum wage, according to Clark, will force companies to recognize the value of their workers. “If you think it's odd that a burger, fries and a shake can cost just $4, that's because that price is subsidized in part by the low wages paid to the people who cook, serve, and clean up after your meal.”
One major figure who has, seemingly, become increasingly aware of the impact of “subsidizing” fast food with low wages is the CEO of McDonald’s, Don Thompson.
“You know, our franchisees look at me when I say this and they start to worry: 'Don, don't you say it. Don't you say we support $10.10,” Thompson reportedly told students at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, according to the Huffington Post. “I will tell you we will support legislation that moves forward.”
The CEO of McDonald's isn’t the only one to catch the higher minimum wage bug. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has also changed his tune in recent weeks about raising the minimum pay for workers.
Cuomo, who historically has been skittish on the issue of a statewide minimum wage increase in New York, has now expressed support of the Working Families Party’s push for a higher minimum wage in the state.
The Working Families Party, a progressive political party that advocates for “an economy that works for everyone,” has been an active voice in the wage debate in New York, pushing for “municipalities with higher costs of living,” to be “allowed to set higher minimum wages — within limits,” according to The New York Times’ Patrick McGeehan.
“With the current legislative session in Albany winding down, even the most ardent supporters of higher wages do not expect any changes before next year,” McGeehan wrote on Wednesday. However, McGeehan said the fact that Gov. Cuomo is willing to entertain a push for higher wages is seen as a victory for the WFP.
Not everyone is as taken by Seattle’s economic experiment as Cuomo’s New York.
“The first and most obvious effect of a $15 an hour minimum is that there are going to be job losses,” Forbes’ Tim Worstall wrote on June 3.
The workers that will take the biggest hits, according to Worstall, are high school graduates who will be forced to compete with college graduates for the higher wages.
“So that’s what we would expect from this rise in the Seattle minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Worstall concluded. “Some rise in unemployment. A much larger rise in high school graduate unemployment relative to the general unemployment rate. And a significant reduction in the job related benefits that workers receive.”