Dispelling the Myths About Seatac’s $15 Minimum Wage

I’ve been active with the Yes on Prop One (Seatac’s citizen initative to raise minimum wage for airport workers to $15/hr) since I signed the petition. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there, so let’s clear them up.

First of all, I do not work for the campaign, and I never have. I do not get paid to write about this, nor have I ever. I don’t work at the airport, so my personal wages will not see any change because of this.

There remain, however, serious misconceptions about the city ordinance, so let’s clear them up.

This will hurt small businesses

The initiative specifically excluded small businesses. Hotels with fewwer than 100 rooms don’t count. Businesses with fewer than 50 non-managerial employees don’t count. This may lead to dozens of workers being promoted to “management” to avoid the requirement, but we’ll have to wait and see if that inclusion worked.

This is a radical experiment

This is not an experiment. 120 municipalities have enacted living wage laws, and it this sort of airport-only law has already been done with success in other airports up and down the west coast. Los Angeles has a minimum wage of 15.76$.

San Jose has a minimum wage of $15.07. San Diego has a minimum wage of $13.99. Oakland has a minimum wage of $13.45. San Francisco has a minimum wage of $10.55. Even the rate at Vancouver, BC’s airport is a mandatory minimum of $10.25 (CAN, $9.69 USD) but it includes full national healthcare.

This will cause businesses to leave the city

No it won’t. UT San Diego ran a story showing that businesses [are] not dying in spite of living wage. As long as you’ve got customers, and they can afford your product, you stay in business. Slightly higher wages for a handful plus more disposible income equals no net loss, it just means fewer of those working full time are able to collect food stamps and subsidies.

This will double the cost of your cheeseburger

Nope. Washington state already has the highest minimum wage in the country, fully 27% higher than many states, yet we still have a dollar menu and enjoy foot longs at Subway, even in high-rent places like Northgate Mall.

Businesses don’t mark up their product to cover their costs, but rather charge the maximum the market will bear regardless of wholesale costs.

Maybe consumers in Washington state have more disposable income. If low wages is the panacea, why is there no correlation between low-wage states and unemployment. In fact, the cities and states with the highest wages are also the most prosperous.

This destroys entry level positions for young workers

Not sure which airport, let alone which decade, you’re shopping in, but these are not teenagers working after school. The person fueling up or de-icing your plane at Seatac is no teenager, yet currently earns about $10 an hour. How do you feel about having your plane’s fuel supply handled by a $10/hour worker?

Personally, it scares the hell out of me. Someone willing to work with hazardous chemicals all day for $20,000 a year? That’s untenable. Paying a pair of fuelers an extra $5/hr would only amount to four cents per ticket on a domestic flight, and about 2-3 cents per ticket on an international flight*.

This is the highest minimum wage in the country

Well no, nope it isn’t. Los Angeles airport at $15.76 and San Jose airport at $15.07 are still higher. This isn’t a city-wide increase, this is strictly for the airport and the businesses directly supporting the airport, and only if they are big businesses.

Burger flippers shouldn’t make more than [starting professional]

Do you know a teacher making $30,000 you’d like to compare this to? Maybe someone with a bachelors in arts working retail, sales, or an entry-level corporate job? Maybe they should be paid more too, but this is apples to oranges.

Teachers have summers off and a full pension, while airport workers will only accrue one hour of sick pay per 40-hours of work. Fuelers and de-icers endure harsh chemicals as part of their jobs.

And more importantly, teachers and other corporate workers may start at about $15/hour, but they top out at about three times that. There are workers at Seatac who have been there over 20 years who earn less today than they did in the 80s.

Take your 2013 earnings. If your boss told you in 2043 you would be earning less real dollars, despite inflation, what would you tell him to do? I imagine it would be something along the lines of jump in a lake, die in a fire, or just wait until you find out where he lives.

Now workers at/near $15 will demand higher wages

The big libertarian misunderstanding here is that workers have the power to demand the wages they want, need or deserve. A corporation’s job is to maximize profits. Period. They will never pay workers a penny more than they think they can get away with.

In some cases that is minimum wage. In other cases, if you’re an in-demand employee, they’ll decide the very least they’re willing to pay to keep you from going to the competition. Sometimes the gamble doesn’t work out, but it’s part of doing business. If nobody leaves, we’re obviously paying too much.

Much like how businesses charge the very most they can get away with, businesses also pay the very least they can get away with. Short of having a union in place, the supply and demand of the market largely handles it, and

Might as well set minimum wage at $100/hour

This point comes up endlessly when discussing minimum wage. It’s a way of throwing ones arms up in the air and saying “it’s so silly, let’s not do anying.” Well we have to do something.

The national minimum wage is $7.25, higher in some states. This rate only effects about 3% of the US work force according to the BLS. Raising it a nickel wouldn’t hurt anyone, but it would put money in the pockets of those who have the very least in hand.

If we raised the minimum wage to $100/hr, it would take about 90% of American workers and put them all on the same plane. That would be a catastrophic event. It would force virtually every business to close shop, and send our entire economy into a tailspin with Zimbabwe-like inflation.

But raising the minimum wage slightly, and only bit by bit, place by place… yeah, that just doesn’t happen.

* Figures based on two workers earning an additional $5 per hour, with one flight fuled per hour. Domestic is based on 250 passengers, international on 350 passengers.

Author: Brian White

Brian first began peddling his humorous wares with a series of Xerox printed books in fifth grade. Since then he's published over two thousand satire and humor articles, as well as eight stage plays, a 13-episode cable sitcom and three (terrible) screenplays. He is a freelance writer by trade and an expert in the field of viral entertainment marketing. He is the author of many of the biggest hoaxes of recent years, a shameful accomplishment in which he takes exceptional pride.

2 thoughts on “Dispelling the Myths About Seatac’s $15 Minimum Wage

  1. Great article. I learned a lot and I wonder why the promotional material, pro & con, that flooded my mail box on this initiative, was so woefully insufficient in explaining it’s true impact.

    Could you address another claim I heard, that if effected businesses opt to join a union, they would be exempt from paying the higher wage? If this is true then how is this not a union sponsored membership drive/ shakedown?

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