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Working Washington calls it a lesson for other cities and states considering higher wages—the very same businesses that predicted disaster a year ago are now hiring, expanding, and reinvesting as Seattle economy grows stronger. (Photo: AP)

'The Sky Remains Aloft': Dire Minimum Wage Predictions Proved Wrong

Local business success stories show "there's no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer"

Deirdre Fulton

One year after Seattle's mayor signed the nation's first citywide $15 minimum wage into law, dire predictions of economic collapse have not come to pass. 

In fact, according to Working Washington—the group that launched the fast food strikes that sparked the fight for $15 in Seattle and then helped lead the victorious campaign—many of the very same business owners and others who predicted such devastation "are now hiring and even expanding their business operations in the city."

Consider Andrew Friedman, who owns Liberty Bar in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Working Washington notes that Friedman was one of the most outspoken opponents of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law, and helped lead the Forward Seattle effort to repeal the law. "Your favorite indie shop is out of business if $15 an hour happens," Friedman said in March of 2014. "Local independent businesses WILL close, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work."

Since the minimum wage increase took effect in April, Friedman has opened a second bar in the same neighborhood.

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For another example of a Chicken Little prediction, turn to Angela and Ethan Stowell, who own a medium-sized chain of well-regarded Seattle restaurants and "repeatedly predicted grave consequences" for the city's restaurants if the minimum wage rose to $15 an hour. "Local, independent restaurants and retailers will be the ones who are really going to struggle and some will go out of business," Angela Stowell said in June 2014.

However, Ethan Stowell Restaurants recently announced plans to open three new restaurants—all in Seattle—in the year ahead. And last month, Ethan Stowell said: "In the end, I don't think a lot of restaurants will lose a lot of business from [the new minimum wage]. Ultimately it's really good for the industry and I think everyone is going to settle down and the average customer is going to keep going out to eat like they always have. It's a bit of a storm for a little while, but I think people like to go out to dinner and ultimately restaurants and employers and employees will figure out a way that works well for everyone."

Working Washington has compiled more than a dozen such stories, in an effort to prove that "[t]here’s no reason for anyone to treat these kinds of threats as credible any longer."

And with cities across Washington state and around the country considering $15 an hour laws of their own, that message couldn't be better timed. 

"A year after Seattle’s $15 law was signed into law, it’s true that there hasn’t yet been time yet for businesses to really see the benefit of increased consumer demand from 100,000 people having more money to put back into the economy," Working Washington said in a press release. "But one thing is abundantly clear: the sky remains aloft."


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