Evangelists for the $15 minimum wage are trying to meddle with research on Seattle’s law by smearing a gold-star team at the University of Washington.
EIGHTEEN months into Seattle’s march toward a $15 minimum wage, researchers have not seen a big impact on new business openings. Workers are earning more per hour, but they appear to be working slightly fewer hours. And the higher price of labor appears to have put a 1.2 percent drag on the employment rate for low-wage workers, even in the white-hot local economy.
A mixed bag. But overall, the research by a big multidisciplinary team at the University of Washington has been interpreted as good news as Seattle’s wage floor slowly rises to $15 by 2017 for big employers and 2019 for small employers. The rate is now $13 an hour for big employers and $12 an hour for businesses with fewer than 500 workers.
Those conclusions are not good enough, apparently, for evangelists of a higher minimum wage.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant this week sent the UW team a blistering letter questioning its methodology. She told The Seattle Times’ Dan Beekman she was concerned that negative media coverage of closely watched Seattle research could “have consequences for the nationwide fight for $15.”
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Investor Nick Hanauer, arguing in favor of a $13.50 statewide minimum wage initiative on the November ballot, was more blistering. He described the UW team as committing “research malpractice” during a meeting with The Seattle Times editorial board this week.
In this silly season of campaign rhetoric, attacking the messenger is standard practice.
Criticism of the UW’s work-in-progress research disturbingly echoes campaign spin that ignores facts that don’t fit neatly into a predetermined political narrative. Remind you of a certain Republican presidential candidate?
For the record, the gold-star UW team — picked, by the way, by the pro-$15 minimum wage Seattle City Council — includes seven professors and a team of investigators and analysts.
Their commitment to thorough research includes employer surveys, tracking workers’ lives and crunching reams of state and local data. They’ve committed to a five-year project, making it one of the most thorough local studies of a minimum-wage hike ever attempted.
Nonetheless, the pro-$15 partisans have tried to paint the head of the team, Jacob Vigdor, as an antagonist of the minimum wage by cherry-picking his past writings. In a response to Sawant, the entire UW team wrote it “believe(s) our nation has a moral responsibility to ensure that the fruits of our prosperity are equally shared. We are committed to producing objective and rigorous research, however, regardless of our individual preferences or concerns.”
Seattle has lots of problems that the City Council should be focusing on. Partisan meddling with a groundbreaking, unfinished research study by our state’s flagship university is nowhere on that list.
Let the researchers do their jobs.