As SeaTac voters prepare to decide whether workers at large airport-related businesses will make a living minimum wage of $15 an hour, it's worth revisiting the highly inaccurate editorial that ran on the Seattle Times' blog the other day, in which writer Sharon Pian Chan (whose parents, she notes repeatedly, showed up in the U.S. with "two suitcases" and "bootstrapped" their way to a better life by working 20-hour sleepless days, with no help from the guvmint) argues that a living wage will "devastate" small businesses.
In addition to some really basic inaccuracies (claiming that two small restaurants would be subject to the new minimum—as I reported, they wouldn't—and asserting that a hotel with a small staff would be put out of business by the mandate, which wouldn't apply to the hotel either, as David Goldstein reported yesterday—Chan claimed that a ban on plastic bags and "plastic food containers" has put "mom-and-pop restaurants in the Chinatown International District operating on wafer-thin margins" out of business. Additionally, Chan claims that the requirement that companies provide paid sick leave has similarly "pushed some businesses off the edge."
First of all, there's no ban on plastic food containers; in fact, plastic food containers have largely replaced Styrofoam, which is what Seattle actually banned. Second, as Washington Restaurant Association spokesman Tony Buhr told PubliCola, "lightweight plastic bags are permitted for restaurant use when packing food to go," and Seattle has "no plans to ban lightweight plastic bags for use by restaurants." So much for those poor mom-and-pops pushed "off the edge" because of a fictitious ban on plastic bags.
But just as anecdotes aren't evidence, bootstraps aren't a sustainable economic strategy. And paying $15 an hour isn't going to put any sustainable companies out of business.As for paid sick leave: The WRA opposed the law, which requires businesses with five or more employees to give their workers a minimal number of paid sick days off but largely exempts bars and restaurants by allowing tipped employees to trade shifts with their coworkers. According to an industry survey, about half the businesses reported increased costs as a result of the new law, but did not report going out of business because they had to provide sick leave to their workers.
I get it: Chan thinks immigrants should have the chance to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," a scenario that, to her, means working grueling hours at poverty wages and expecting their employees to do the same. But just as anecdotes aren't evidence, bootstraps aren't a sustainable economic strategy. And paying $15 an hour isn't going to put any sustainable companies out of business.