March 12, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 11

Community & Editorial

To resolve the debate over wages, small businesses and workers’ advocates must work together

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At the first public hearing on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage issue the co-chairs of Mayor Murray’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee and members of the Seattle City Council faced a crowd of concerned citizens, most of whom were orderly and respectful, all of whom came with sharp, emotionally charged opinions.

Supporters of the proposal were righteous and caused quite a ruckus throughout the evening. There was little support or concern for the apprehensions of the small business people who spoke. Folks were downright rude at times, like when a Latino gentleman, obviously struggling to read his speech in English, was yelled at by the crowd that his time was up.

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark tried to use her prerogative as chair to let him finish, but the crowd would have none of it. It was embarrassing.

We need to ask ourselves some questions: Aren’t we interested in improving our local economy both by providing a decent wage and encouraging small business and protecting human services? Do people really believe that all small businesses are exploiting their workers? Are they really the enemy? Don’t we want to encourage our small- business people? We have a problem, and everyone at the meeting knew it. We just have to come up with a way to solve it.

There is some ground for optimism: In January El Centro de la Raza instituted a minimum-wage increase to $15-an-hour across the organization. And one speaker did mention that income equality, fairness and dignity is not about workers vs. small businesses. We all pay the costs when people are treated unfairly. We need to work together to come up with solutions that benefit all of us.

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