One of the first talking points you hear against raising the minimum wage is that “it’s a business killer.”
When the minimum wage was stagnant, it was a convenient argument for those who wanted it to stay stagnant. Higher wages were the looming threat over businesses.
But over the past several years, we’ve seen minimum wage increases take hold in a number of cities and states. And when we go beyond the Chamber of Commerce talking points and into the real world, this old argument quickly goes up in smoke.
Case in point is the city of SeaTac, home to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the first in the nation to raise the wage to $15 an hour.
This week, The New York Times reported on the area’s hotel development boom — an industry that employs a large number of low-wage workers and as a result, is sensitive to higher payroll costs.
Despite that, a record nine new hotels are in the works, eager to take advantage of a booming economy and growing tourism.
Just read this from a Dallas-based developer:
He said he considered the $15 minimum wage before deciding to go ahead with a 176-room Residence Inn by Marriott that is scheduled to open next spring, but it was not the determining factor. “We are competing for quality people seeking the best jobs, so would likely have been at that threshold anyway,” he said.
“There’s a lot of noise” about higher minimum wages, he said, but he decides whether to enter an area based on an overall favorable economic outlook. If the area is not doing well, “we’re not going in there,” he said, so wages are not generally a factor.
The New York Times also reported that Steven Lou, whose company, Lou Development, is building a 132-room Hyatt House and a 237-room Hyatt Place in SeaTac, said he was not worried about the $15 minimum wage. In fact, he expected to pay even more to hotel employees.
“We are willing to pay a good wage for stable, skilled employees,” he said. “After they are trained and have been with us a while, they will make more than $15 an hour.
Seattle, which also has passed a $15 minimum wage, is doing extraordinarily well. At 3%, its unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. More workers making a higher wage mean more dollars are being put back into local economies.
Unfortunately, a national $15 minimum wage was dead on arrival in Congress when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Washington State’s own Patty Murray introduced it earlier this year.
But momentum for these increases is building, and examples like Seattle will only fuel the desire. In last year’s election, voters used ballot initiatives in six states to raise their local minimum wage and sent a message to lawmakers that this is a priority for them.
If legislatures continue to cower at the feet of the chambers of commerce and other local business lobbies, then they can expect similar moves in their states as well. And they won’t be able to alarm voters with nightmare predictions that have been shown in case after case to simply be untrue.