In May 2016, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a Seattle, Washington, law which requires employers to phase in a $15 minimum wage. Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2015. The Minimum Wage Ordinance sets wages for the City of Seattle and will gradually increase to $15 per hour and higher with adjustments for inflation. The ordinance has different requirements for businesses based on the number employees they have and whether or not they provide health benefits to their employees. Advocates for “The Fight for $15,” view the court’s decision as a victory, while opponents believe the court has made a terrible mistake.
According to their website, “The Fight for $15” began in 2012 when two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job to demand $15 per hour and union rights in New York City. Today, it is a global movement in over 300 cities on six continents. It has already won raises for 22 million people across the country—including 10 million who are on their way to $15 per hour—all because workers came together and acted like a union.
“The Fight for $15” seeks to make a positive financial impact on the working poor. As the rich get richer, the working poor strive to make what is referred to as a livable working wage. Many working poor make only the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or slightly more, have a difficult time paying bills due to the ever-increasing cost of things such as housing, food, and medical care.
What Opponents Believe
Opponents of the “The Fight for $15” believe the group’s efforts will have an overall negative impact on society. A survey of 166 mostly labor economists conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center finds that 72 percent of U.S.-based economists oppose a $15 federal minimum wage. Five out of six respondents said that a $15 minimum wage would have harmful effects on youth employment levels. And two-thirds of respondents also said that a $15 minimum wage would make it more difficult for small businesses to stay open. In particular, A Z Pizza franchise in Seattle, as well as popular restaurants Luna Park, Abbot’s Cellar and Source in San Francisco (another city with a similar law), have gone out of business this year, citing the wage hike as the driving reason.
Small Business Owners Believe It’s Impossible
Small business owners in these cities believe it is impossible to pay their employees $15 while trying to compete with large companies which have more revenue and resources. Advocates of a $15 minimum wage believe that if CEOs/business owners pay their employees a livable wage, their employees will have a better quality of life.
I personally believe a compromise between these two opposing groups is necessary. While I applaud the efforts of the “Fight for $15,” I believe fundamental issues arise with their argument concerning a sharp increase in the price of good and services. Additionally, questions such as justifying paying a teenage worker $15 and a 30-year-old $15 come to my mind. I think a progressive minimum wage based on age may be a healthy compromise to ensure companies aren’t hit with a wage hike for all employees. On the flip side, I do believe the working poor should have their wages raised immediately so that they can afford the increasing cost to live.
So, should you join the “The Fight for $15”? The answer may depend on whether you’re an employer or employee. I’m unsure if a right or wrong answer exists. I will leave that determination to you, the reader. I look forward to following this issue in future legal cases and will provide an update in the near future.