Seattle-area franchise owners are pissed, as you may have heard. A group of them, led by the International Franchise Association (IFA), has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to stop the implementation of Seattle’s new $15 an hour minimum wage effort. Identifying their campaign as “Seattle For Franchise Fairness,” they argue that the new law, scheduled to go into effect in April, is unfair - requiring franchise owners to get to $15 an hour faster than businesses classified as “small.”
The franchises, predictably, say they actually are small business, despite the fact they’re affiliated with major national chains. The IFA has called Seattle’s minimum wage bill “a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small, independently-owned franchise business owners who are not part of a national, corporate chain.”
And make no mistake: The franchises are on the offensive. Not only have they filed their suit in federal court, they’ve now taken their argument to the court of public opinion - purchasing a full-page ad in the Seattle Times that includes a letter addressed to Mayor Ed Murray from IFA President & CEO Stephen Caldeira. In the letter (posted below), Caldeira says, “To be clear, we are not seeking special treatment for franchisees; we only want equal treatment. Franchisees own the stores, not the chains - and should not be unfairly defined as big businesses. This ordinance means that franchisees cannot compete in the Seattle marketplace and many franchise small businesses will cease to exist. This law creates an uneven playing field for job-creating franchisees and will ultimately harm the very people it is intended to help.
“By picking winners and losers among Seattle businesses, this overreaching policy flies in the face of all current legal precedent and common sense for what comprises a small business,” the letter continues. “This measure clearly discriminates against franchise small business owners.”
With Seattle’s minimum wage bill passed unanimously by the City Council last week, and quickly (and ceremoniously) signed by Ed Murray the following day, it would appear that Seattle’s political leaders don’t agree. The IFA appears to be trying to create public pressure to change that.
Here’s the ad:
And here’s a closer view of the letter: