Workers fear $15 minimum wage could hurt service

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 8:44 AM

SEATTLE -- Seattle City Council members are set to begin formal consideration of a minimum wage hike on Thursday.

Not all workers in the city are on board with the idea.

The Select Committee on Minimum Wage and Income Inequality will review Mayor Ed Murray's proposal which calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage to be phased in over time.

The proposal defines small business as 500 employees or fewer. Large businesses with more than 500 workers will have to pay workers $15 by 2017 if they don't also receive health care. In that case, they get an extra year.

Small businesses will have until 2019 to reach $15 an hour if they do not offer health care or tips. All other small businesses will have to pay $15 an hour by 2021. There are no exemptions for certain industries, organizations or class of employees.

Committee chair Sally Clark doesn't expect a full council vote on the wage increase until mid to late June.

Some workers don't want increase

There are many concerns among service industry employees like Leiann Papac, a server at Bay Café in Seattle. One of her biggest concerns is the impact on menu prices.

"My feeling is that no one is going to want to come in and eat if prices are going to get jacked up," said Papac.

She has a college degree, but enjoys her job in the café four days per week. With the $15-per-hour minimum wage issue looming, she and others worry business owners could keep her tips in exchange for the higher wage.

"Then a lot of people aren't going to care how they treat customers because they are going to make the same amount of money whether they are giving good service or not," she said.

Papac makes the current $9.32 minimum wage. She expects an average tip of $6 per table, and with around 40 tables per shift, Papac estimates she makes $25,000-to-$30,000 a year. Tips are around two-thirds of that.

Without the tips she lives for, she may put her college degree in marketing to work after all.

"I'd go find something else," she said. "This isn't an easy job."

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