Conservatives are using small businesses as a talking point on why the minimum wage should not be raised to $15. Luckily, in enlightened Seattle, where the increase has already passed, the truth can dispel this factless rhetoric. Restaurant owners in the state, who originally feared that the wage hike would hurt their business are now strongly convinced that it made only a positive impact. This makes sense, as now more people have the money to eat!
This story, which originally ran in the Puget Sound Business Journal, titled: “Apocalypse Not: $15 and the cuts that never came.” Tom Douglas, a small business owner who feared that he would be negatively affected, and that a lion share of restaurants would have to close, is profiled now that the hike has had time to settle. “I don’t know that [a $15 minimum wage] would put us out of business, but I would say we lose maybe a quarter of the restaurants downtown.” His fears have no grounding in reality, as the article points out.
Since the wage hike passed on April 1st, dozens of new restaurants have opened—including some by Douglas himself. The King County section of Seattle has issued 5,227 permits for food service establishments in Seattle so far this year, which means this year will have more openings than last, which had 5,458 permits. This also means 2015 will beat 2013, with 5,415 issued that year.
Unlike most Conservatives, when presented with the facts, Douglas has acknowledged he was wrong. “Douglas has now changed his mind about the law, saying he was ‘naive’ to think that restaurants would raise pay on their own,” read the profile. In fact, he continues to open new eateries, unphased by the $15 approval. His employees are certainly feeling the difference. Dezi Bonow, a head chef at another Douglas owned establishment has praised the increase as it extends to “legitimiz[ing] cooking as a craft.”
This story serves as an accurate first hand example for what will happen if the new minimum wage is federally extended—there will be happier workers and owners will feel the positive effects as well. Americans need to set their labor at a livable wage—it is currently not. If you work a job 40 hours a week but are still below the poverty line, that is not your fault—that is the fault of the government that does not look out for your labor rights. This wage increase will mean a more equitable pay and thus more money in the hands of Americans, which is economically a very good thing. Small business owners are not going to go out of business, they will see the benefits of their workers being paid a living wage too.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.