Here’s yet another study that punctures all those scare tactics about what will happen when the minimum wage is raised. Seattle’s minimum wage for large employers went to $13 an hour in 2016—and a recent study from the University of Washington School of Public Health finds that the increase didn’t affect grocery prices in the city:
Otten and colleagues collected data from six supermarket chains affected by the policy in Seattle and from six others outside the city but within King County and unaffected by the policy. They looked at prices for 106 food items per store starting one month before enactment of the ordinance, one month after, and a year later.
Researchers found no significant differences in the cost of the market basket between the two locations at any point in time. A second analysis to assess the public health implications of potential differential price changes on specific items, such as fruits and vegetables, was also conducted and researchers found no evidence of price increases by food group. Meats made up the largest share of the basket, followed by vegetables, cereal, grains and dairy.
So people were earning more money to buy groceries (and other necessities) with, but they weren’t paying more. Add that to Seattle’s booming economy, and the picture looks pretty darn good.
This blog was originally published at Daily Kos Labor on September 21, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at DailyKos.
Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs, no matter what Republicans tell you—and a new study of the Seattle restaurant industry, where some businesses are already paying a $15 minimum wage, provides another data point showing just that. According to the University of California, Berkeley, study, the increased minimum wage had employment effects that were “not statistically distinguishable from zero,” which is a fancy way of saying “we looked and we could not find a damn thing.” The Seattle Times reports:
Indeed, employment in food service from 2015 to 2016 was not affected, “even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding,” according to the study, led by Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich. […]
It can be hard to separate what impact the wage law had on employment in Seattle versus the effect of the city’s white-hot economy and tight labor market, but “we do our best,” Reich said.
The study compares the wage and employment growth rates in Seattle to a control group of counties, in Washington state and across the U.S., that had similar growth rates as Seattle in the years shortly before the minimum-wage law took effect.
A report issued last year found indications that the increased minimum wage did slightly restrict job growth, but we don’t know if the difference comes from differing methodologies or from the studies covering different time frames. Both studies have to contend with Seattle’s booming economy, which could conceivably mask lowered growth of the job rate for low-wage workers … but which itself refutes the Republican talking points against raising the minimum wage. Because “it’s hard to tell if even more low-wage workers would otherwise be employed because the economy is so darn good” does not exactly back up claims that having the minimum wage be a living wage will destroy the economy.
A $15 minimum wage for Seattle has been in the works for a while, and now the City Council has made it official:
The unanimous vote of the nine-member Council, after months of discussion by a committee of business and labor leaders convened by Mayor Ed Murray, will give low-wage workers here — in incremental stages, with different tracks for different sizes of business — the highest big-city minimum in the nation.“Even before the Great Recession a lot of us have started to have doubt and concern about the basic economic promise that underpins economic life in the United States,” said Sally J. Clark, a Council member. “Today Seattle answers that challenge,” she added. “We go into uncharted, unevaluated territory.”
Even socialist Council member Kshama Sawant voted for the increase despite having pushed to eliminate some exceptions and speed the path to $15; under the plan that passed Monday, $15 an hour won’t be fully phased in until 2021, though workers at large employers that don’t provide health coverage will get there by 2017. A strong majority of Seattle voters support the raise.
This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on June 3, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.
Amazing news out of Washington state today, as the city of Seattle announced that they are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
There are currently 102,000 workers in Seattle earning less than $15 an hour. This wage increase will put hundreds of millions dollars into the pockets of working-class families that they will invest back into their neighborhoods and strengthen their entire economy.
How did Seattle do it? On May 30th of last year, Seattle fast food workers went on strike for $15 because they knew that raising pay was necessary. Their leadership and commitment helped spark an extraordinary grassroots workers’ movement that rapidly built support across the entire city. Less than a year later, Seattle has achieved a minimum wage that ensures every worker in Seattle can support themselves, afford the basics, and contribute to the economy.
Following Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that an agreement to lift the minimum wage in Seattle had been reached, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued a statement:
“The members of SEIU are thrilled that working people in Seattle have won a landmark victory in their campaign to lift the wage floor in their city and launch an innovative community-based method for making sure workers are paid what they earn.
“This breakthrough happened because ordinary people in Seattle stuck together to force their elected officials and the employer community to listen to them and take them seriously when they called for higher wages that boost the economy instead of hold it back. Their action led to a remarkable dialogue among workers, local government leaders, and local businesses that produced the agreement.
“This happened because of brave people like Crystal Thompson, a Domino’s Pizza worker who went on strike with other Seattle fast food workers to help build the growing national movement to lift pay in the booming fast food industry.
“This happened because of people like Abdirahman Abdullahi, a car rental worker at SeaTac airport who helped lead the campaign to hold a vote in the community of SeaTac to boost wages for airport workers to $15 per hour.
“SEIU members like Washington’s home care workers, who have stuck together in their union to raise their pay from $7.18 to $11 in less than ten years, were among those who stood with airport and fast food workers who aren’t united in a union to say that low wages are holding back their community.
“Through the Working Washington coalition, people across the state stood up to say that it’s simply wrong that so many families can’t count on real economic security, no matter how hard they work.”
Read Mary Kay Henry’ entire statement here.
“Today, this victory is for Seattle,” says SEIU Healthcare 775NW President David Rolf. “Tomorrow, as thousands of low-wage workers mobilize, we will stand down extremists who want to split apart our communities; we will demonstrate to doubters that middle-out economics benefits all; and we will rekindle the American pledge to leave a brighter future for the next generation.”
The bottom line? When the voices of low-wage workers and community leaders are leading the conversation, we see real progress on fair pay. Share this graphic on Facebook to spread the good news far and wide.
This article was originally printed on SEIU on May 1, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
Author: Kate Thomas
A few American cities (and one state—go, Connecticut!) have started catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to paid sick leave laws. But despite those cities and state and huge number of other countries embracing the notion that sick people should be able to stay home from work, you still hear a lot of American politicians claiming that sick leave is Bad For Business. And of course, whatever is reputed to be bad for business is going to be difficult to pass, even if the facts don’t necessarily back up the claims. But it is good to have facts anyway, and here aresome facts about Seattle’s paid sick leave law, which went into effect in September 2012:
The audit found that 70 percent of employers in the city support the law, with 45 percent saying they are very supportive. This held true for businesses of all sizes. “These business owners, managers, and human resources professionals view paid leave as a valuable and important benefit for their workers,” the report says.It’s not hard to see why they might feel so supportive. The costs and impacts “have been modest and smaller than anticipated,” the audit notes. The majority report no effect on profitability or customer service, with just 17 percent believing that it made them less profitable. The average reported cost of implementing it was about one eighth of a percent of their annual revenue and providing the leave for the first year was on average four tenths of a percent. To deal with any costs, 8 percent raised their prices or otherwise passed the cost on to consumers, 6 percent decreased raises or bonuses, 5 percent decreased vacation time, and just 2.7 percent reduced employment while only 0.7 percent said they closed or relocated.
The law’s success isn’t just about business owners’ feelings, either:
All three measures of employment robustness – the number of Seattle firms with more than four employees, total number of Seattle employees, and total Seattle wages – grew in absolute terms over the first year of the Ordinance.
Not to mention all those people who could stay home from work if they were sick. There’s still work to be done: Some employers either don’t know about or don’t fully understand the law, and aren’t providing the required amount of leave. But the excuses politicians can reasonably make for opposing sick leave laws are rapidly evaporating—not that that will cause many sick leave opponents to stop making excuses.
This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on April 23, 2014.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.