Seattle-area total compensation costs for private employees more than doubled the national average from June 2014 to June 2015, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the time period, the increase in wages and benefits jumped to 4.3 percent, well above the 1.9 percent national average.
In April, businesses in Seattle began the multiyear phase-in of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Small employers have seven years to make the full $15 wage transition, whereas larger businesses–500 or more employees–have three years.
NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor said the fight against the $15 wage increase campaign is far from over at the state level.
“It’s an ongoing movement,” he said. “We know the unions are behind it, and it’s well financed. We expect to see this continue on a city-to-city basis until the Legislature steps in.”
A coordinated, union-led effort called 15 Now is a campaign to win a statewide increase. The group has targeted particular cities to increase the minimum wage. At $9.47, Washington state already has one of the highest minimum wage in the nation and is indexed for inflation every year. NFIB/Washington has been keeping track of all the developments.
This fall, the city of Tacoma will put out a referendum to voters on whether to increase the minimum wage. There are similar efforts going on in Spokane. In Olympia, city council challengers running on the 15 Now platform.
In Seattle, Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association, said the wage increase would raise labor costs as a total percentage of expenses to 42 percent for quick-service restaurants and 47 percent for full-service restaurants. Before the wage increase, only 36 percent of funds went to labor in a typical cost breakdown for Seattle restaurants.
While a $12 or $15 wage may make sense in a city of relative affluence, “it’s hard to use that same logic and say it makes sense in communities like Winthrop, Aberdeen” and other communities that don’t share a similar economic profile, Connor said.
“We’ll continue to be a leading opponent of an additional minimum wage increase throughout Washington state,” Connor said.