I’m all for a vigorous public debate, so I certainly don’t mind letting restaurateurs air their views on a $15 minimum wage. But when Tom Douglas makes the alarming claim that Seattle could lose a quarter of its restaurants should a $15 minimum wage pass, I just think it is fair to point out that there’s no historical data to support it.
While our proposed 60 percent hike in the minimum wage is certainly steeper than most, it’s not the steepest. Thanks to 1988’s Initiative 518, Washington restaurants endured an even more imposing 85 percent increase in labor costs, and survived with no evidence of mass layoffs or mass business closures. Indeed, over the following decade, growth in restaurant employment actually outpaced total growth in employment statewide.
I’m not saying that a $15 minimum wage wouldn’t hurt some businesses. I’m just saying that there is no historical evidence to support the dire warnings of mass business closures.