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Washington business owners disagree on minimum wage increase

by caprecord
An overflow crowd came to a Monday hearing on a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour in four years.

Business owners testified both for and against the proposed minimum wage and sick leave bills at Monday’s House Labor Committee hearing.

Tiffany Turner owns Adrift Hotel in Long Beach and is in support of the bill. She said paying employees a higher wage is the right thing to do. Turner said that she pays above minimum wage, and has seen improved retention, which helps her business.

“We live in a state and an economy where people can’t make ends meet,” at minimum wage, she said. “As business owners this is responsible and it is not difficult for businesses to implement,” she said.

But Bob Mandel, who owns a Dairy Queen franchise in University Place, said he took home $45,000 a year from his franchise last year and can’t afford to give his employee a raise.

“Fast food restaurants are not a final destination, we’re are a starting point for most,” he said.

House Democrats introduced a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $12 in four years.

The current state minimum wage is $9.47 an hour — the highest state minimum wage in the nation. That’s not counting the city-wide minimum wage increases in Seattle and Seatac, places where the minimum was set at $15 an hour.

The minimum wage bill would implement a $10 minimum wage in 2016, and then raise it to $10.50 in 2017, $11 in 2018, reaching $12 an hour in 2019.

Nathan Ward, who makes $9.50 an hour working at Taco Bell, was among the workers who testified in favor of the bill. Ward said that with his current rate of pay, he’ll be paying for medical bills for years.

“It is as such right now I can’t afford to miss one shift,” he said. “It is either miss a shift or take a $70 hit in my paycheck that I can’t afford. I wouldn’t be able afford to pay cell phone bill or pay my rent, or I’d get kicked out on the street.”

He also said if he made more, he could afford to spend the money at other businesses in Aberdeen.

But JoReen Brinkman, who owns restaurant franchises in Pullman, said that she would have to raise prices in order to accommodate the change.

“Last year we were forced to raise our prices 2 percent due to an increase in minimum wage and a rising costs of goods. We had a huge backlash from customers,” she said.

To accommodate for a $12 minimum wage, “I would have to increase prices 7.8 percent,” she said.

People also testified on a sick leave bill that would allow employees to earn paid leave to take care of illnesses or domestic violence issues. Employers would be required to offer between five to nine days of leave depending on the size of the company.

The bills are scheduled for a committee vote on Thursday. You can watch the entire hearing in TVW’s archives.