As you may have heard, there’s a debate raging in Seattle over the idea of a $15 an hour minimum wage. New City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was elected largely on the back of the $15/hr movement, Mayor Ed Murray has come out in support of the idea—organizing a task force to figure out how best to make it happen and ordering that all City employees get the bump to start things off—and fast food boycotts highlighting wage disparity have become the norm.
Meanwhile, there are those pumping the breaks. While a handful seem firmly against a minimum wage hike in any form, in true Seattle fashion, the real debate is to the left of that. The discussion worth following centers on how a minimum wage hike is implemented, how fast, and what protections are included for small businesses and nonprofits.
Good Jobs Seattle, as you likely know, is the organization behind the recent “McPoverty” boycotts and much of the activism surrounding the push for a $15/hr minimum wage. The organization is good at what it does—having garnered strong support and forwarded the discussion from pipe dream to inevitability. Any shortcomings, so far, have been in subtlety of message. Good Jobs Seattle is adept at getting people riled up. What it struggles at is providing a detailed, thoughtful message about how this will all happen, and how we’ll do it in a way that doesn’t screw over small business owners. (Sawant has also struggled to do this, short of saying well-off corporations should foot some of the bill for helping to make it happen, via new taxes.)
David Meinert, meanwhile, is the somewhat rare Seattle small business owner willing to publically call out the $15/hr movement. Most Seattle liberals seem scared by the prospect of challenging the momentum, for fear of boycotts or black listing. They’re left to meet in private, whispering their worries to sympathetic ears. Meinert is different. While he’s not against a minimum wage hike, he’s been outspoken in questioning the tactics of Sawant, Good Jobs Seattle, and pretty much anyone else who’s come out in support of a $15/hr minimum wage hike that hasn’t addressed the very real concerns that many small business owners have. He’s also a member of Mayor Murray’s minimum wage task force.
Meinert and Good Jobs Seattle faced off on Twitter last night and this morning. The debate provides a good example of where both sides of the current debate currently stand:
Dave Meinert: Report: $15 minimum wage could force Seattle non-profits to cut s http://shar.es/FJui5
Good Jobs Seattle: .@davidmeinert the human services report explicitly *endorses* $15/hour, in bold, in the second sentence, even for their own employees.
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle They want the cuts taken into consideration. What’s your solution? Or just head in the sand about unintended consequences?
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert the solution they suggested sounds good: increase funding and/or give time to make $15 work for them.
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle and when increased funding doesn’t happen by Jan 2015 you’re ok with the cuts?
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert glad to discuss good faith solutions on timing & funding. That’s what the report seemed to ask for.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert but do object to characterizing it as report about what *will* happen. The fact that report is pro-$15 a huge caveat.
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle Head in the sand. We know funding won’t increase enough by January to cover the increased labor costs. So cuts will happen
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert again, we’re open to timing ideas that make it work for service providers. Good faith “how” questions can be addressed.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert but saying poor will be hurt by $15 when providers want solutions is not adding to thoughtful conversation.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert report speaks of need to not pit low-income groups against each other. We agree with that. You too, yes?
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle So you agree that $15Now’s immediate jump to $15 needs work. That’s the whole point. We’re on the same page
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert we’re for solutions that make $15 work for everyone—workers, community businesses, nonprofits, etc.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert glad to discuss good faith solutions, as you brought forward on sick leave. Less open to scare stories.
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle So, what are your realistic, immediate solutions corresponding in timing with the immediate jump to $15?
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle If you don’t want to pit working poor against non-working poor against small business against social services stop doing it
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert that’s what the task force is about! Hard to debate policy specifics that don’t exist yet. Hopefully mayor can make it work.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert all we’ve done is boycott fast food!
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert sounds like we largely agree on spirit, disagree on tactics. We think your gloss on report divisive, you think “15 now” same.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert but how bout we all work together in good faith. It worked on sick leave...
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle Solutions are in response to unintended consequences. First we must identify those, then we can solve them.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert agreed, as long as goal is finding solutions. You’ve convinced us that’s your aim.
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle We all want to get to $15 The debate is about total comp, phase ins, carve outs, youth and training wage, enforcement
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle There can’t be good faith discussions when one side takes a non-negotiable stance, even in light of harmful consequences
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle On sick leave, people came to the table in good faith. $15Now isn’t doing that. They are the problem—dogmatic, inflexible
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert with everyone wanting to get to $15, we remain hopeful the task force can reach consensus. Get to work on that! :)
Meinert: @GoodJobsSeattle Glad to hear you’re willing to listen and negotiate. I’m not willing to have discussions with folks who aren’t.
Good Jobs Seattle: @davidmeinert a non-negotiable position on negotiability!
For more on this debate, see Seattle Weekly’s current cover story , by Nina Shapiro, which focuses on the plight of the minimum wage worker.