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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: $15 wage has more benefits than flaws

Seattle is a surprisingly metropolitan city, complete with $150 per person sushi lunches and more high-end retail stores than we ever see in downtown Phoenix. It also exhibits an intense and abundantly apparent gentrification of once urban and low-income areas. Seattle is safely situated within the tech bubble, and new money is being generated at Gatsbian levels.

Unfortunately, the nasty specter trailing behind gentrified white neighborhoods is an increasing difficulty for the already overburdened racial and economic minorities within the city. With Seattle becoming such a mecca for the nouveau riche, cost of living has skyrocketed, and the city is leaving behind those who were struggling to survive in the first place.

A white knight (or several) has ridden into the city to make up for this growing income disparity: city subsidized hygiene centers and other initiatives to assist homeless or low-income residents, as well as the talk of the nation — Seattle’s $15 minimum wage standard.

Currently, I make $8.05 per hour to get yelled at while I sit at a desk. That’s not bad, but I certainly couldn’t live on it. I have the support of my parents and the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. Unfortunately, most college students and people in general could not dream of supporting themselves on Arizona’s (and most other places’) minimum wage due to cost of living and purchasing power.

In Tucson, it’s a bit easier to sustain life with a horrible wage; food and housing are quite cheap. In Seattle, tech-gentrification has made it all but impossible to live, and Seattle’s new $15 per hour minimum wage is hoping to narrow the gap.

The minimum wage is a hard discussion to have, because a majority of the jobs that minimum-wage employees serve are unskilled and part-time. The association between these jobs and undereducated teenagers or immigrants is an exceptional example of socioeconomic and racial discrimination in the labor force.

“Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages and address the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” said Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen in a Politico article.

Opponents of this move, largely small business owners and franchisees of national corporations, such as McDonald’s, cite concerns about drastic and sudden reappropriation of operations costs to cover this mandate.

Planning to sue to stop the ordinance, the International Franchise Association out of Washington, D.C., said in response that the “City Council’s action today is unfair, discriminatory and a deliberate attempt to achieve a political agenda at the expense of small franchise business owners.”

This political agenda is one that should be being taken up nationwide. There are clear dangers to developing what the right would refer to as a “welfare state,” a concept we’ve seen thoroughly discussed with the progression of the Affordable Care Act. But, there are even clearer and more present dangers to preventing a majority of urban city populations from being able to sustain life.

The ordinance in Seattle is being implemented in increments to allow small businesses to manage the allocation of funds to allow for this wage increase. Small businesses have seven years and a progression of wage increases to account for to make sure they make the cut as the rest of the city leads the way.

Other concerns are entirely valid, such as the worry that certain jobs will be slashed entirely and result in vast unemployment within the city’s most vulnerable populations.

According to the verbiage of the newly passed laws, franchises such as local McDonald’s — part of a larger, multinational corporation — are considered “big business,” even if they have less than 40 employees. The law requires them to make the more rapid change to accommodate the wage mandate, and concerns are that the smaller franchises do not have the social or actual capital to make this happen.

The truth of the matter is that problems will exist within any progressive legislation, and any attempts at reducing income disparity should be welcomed with open arms. If Seattle, and other burgeoning metropolises, wants to enter into the competitive landscape of the world’s top cities, they’re going to have to offer their citizens what it takes to live that life. A minimum wage increase, however drastic, is a start.

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Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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