We reported earlier this week on a new business-backed group called Forward Seattle—not to be confused with another business-backed group called Forward Seattle that opposed spending on bike lanes and other non-car transportation when Mike McGinn was mayor. This new group opposes the proposed $15 minimum wage but supports a $12.50 minimum, phased in over three years for small businesses.
The group wants small businesses, as defined by the national Small Business Administration—a category that includes some retail businesses with annual revenues of up to $21.5 million, as well as some manufacturing businesses with as many as 1,500 employees—to pay $11 an hour starting next year, a rate that would rise to $12.50 by 2017. The proposal would also count things like bonuses, commissions, and profit-sharing toward employees' hourly wage.
Forward Seattle's web site doesn't say specifically who its supporters are (or whether they would support an initiative or referendum if Mayor Ed Murray's income inequality task force adopts a higher minimum wage.)
Today, we heard back from Forward Seattle member Kathrina Dugadi, the co-owner of El Norte Lounge and Mr. Villa Mexican Restaurant in north Seattle. Our One Question for Dugadi: Who is Forward Seattle—that is, what businesses does it represent? (And, as a corollary, what's the ultimate goal here—to convince the city council and mayor to adopt a lower minimum with wage concessions, or to run a referendum or initiative to do the same thing?)
As you'll see, we didn't get an entirely satisfactory answer.
We’re trying to start a conversation and allow everyone to ask questions. That was our intent, obviously. We believe that rather than having a simplistic policy, we need to have a robust, detailed policy and that’s the big difference from what’s going on right now. We want our elected officials to handle that—we elected them—but we’re also confident that if it goes to a vote that we will [prevail].
We’re moving very, very, very quickly on this. We’re gathering people on a daily basis. Part of the reason why we organized is that so many businesses are afraid to speak out publicly. What we have promised them is that they do have anonymity until they’re prepared to speak on their own and share their own view. They’re all slowly coming out. As the weeks go by, we’ll probably be able to organize a more cohesive member list. It includes everyone from members of Tabor 100 [the minoority business group], to chambers of commerce, to other associations and employees of nonprofits.
[They're concerned about] retaliation, which is being targeted, picketed, pointed out in the press as not having social justice concerns, being called a liar, having negative press or PR—that kind of thing. There’s a lot of groups that are bigger, like the [Washington] Restaurant Association or the Chamber of Commerce. We are all the people that aren’t represented by any of those groups.
According to Forward Seattle's web site, under a section titled "Who Are We Exactly?," the group is made up of folks "as diverse as are our businesses (retail, restaurants, venues, salons, bakeries, coffeeshops) [who] hail from every neighborhood and community. Since we have formed, many others have come to identify with our core message: It’s possible to have a thoughtful, sustainable implementation of the minimum wage ordinance."