Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 5, 2014

Seattle To Phase In $15 Minimum Wage Over Several Years

I've written about this before. Seattle has now enacted a $15 minimum wage that will be phased in over the next several years. Expect legal challenges, including one from franchise business representatives. Also, Seattle has a way of ending up with a reality that sometimes doesn't look like the legislation originally passed, if my memory of using their extensive monorail system serves. The $15 figure is I believe the highest in the US. It is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage, which sits just over $7 an hour, is higher than both an inflation-adjusted minimum wage for the state of Washington (around $9) and a proposed raise of the national minimum to just over $10.

imageWhen I heard of this move earlier in the Spring, it put me in the mind of Fantagraphics, the comics company that employs a number of mostly young people at what I believe -- and I don't know for sure, I can only extrapolate from my own experiences and a reasonable take on what one hears and from an inference that the issue is of interest to them -- is a level less than that proposed wage.

My suspicion is that Fantagraphics would not benefit from increased consumption locally of what they do due to people walking around with more cash (their audience is a tiny percentage of those living a lot of places), they would not be eligible for any lengthy training exemption, they would not be eligible for a tip exemption, and what they do is specific enough to the comics industry and perhaps constrained by the general, limited returns on doing non-genre comics that it might be hard to argue that they could recalibrate the business more effectively around fewer but higher paid employees without potential disruption in what they do.

So to me this is certainly a potentially fascinating story. It's one that could have an effect on comic stores, too, although I haven't even started to think about that until typing this sentence. And it certainly could have ramifications in other, progressive cities where a lot of comics businesses are operated.

When I contacted Fantagraphics in April, they said they were watching the debate closely, that they hoped for a raise in the minimum wage that was not to the $15 level, and that they had concerns regarding this particular outcome.

I contacted them again this week. Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds, to whom I spoke for the first article, deferred to co-founder and Publisher Gary Groth on the matter. "We do not have an official statement," Gary Groth told CR. "My unofficial statement is that Portland is looking pretty good about now."
posted 8:25 am PST | Permalink

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