BLOG: What SeaTac tells us about $15 minimum wage

By Assunta Ng

While attending an event at a SeaTac hotel last week, I met two women who receive the $15/hour minimum wage. SeaTac has implemented the new law on Jan. 1. I met the women while they were working. One was a waitress and the other was cleaning the hallway.

“Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time cleaning lady.

“It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food. Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and received overtime pay.

What else? I asked.

“I have to pay for parking,” she said.

I then asked the part-time waitress, who was part of the catering staff.

“Yes, I’ve got $15 an hour, but all my tips are now much less,” she said. Before the new wage law was implemented, her hourly wage was $7. But her tips added to more than $15 an hour. Yes, she used to receive free food and parking. Now, she has to bring her own food and pay for parking.

Another staffer did not want to say anything, but he did say the $15 has a huge impact on the hotel.

The wait staff said the hotel across the street is unionized. Therefore, management is not required to pay the $15 wage. (end)

66 Responses to “BLOG: What SeaTac tells us about $15 minimum wage”

  1. james says:

    Wow…plagerism at it’s finest!! I just read the same article on another website…with the SAME viepoints…go to journalism school!!

  2. Will the author be addressing the issues in the comments ($7 wage vs. the minwage of over $9?)

  3. Josh says:

    I’m not a huge fan of either Seattle or Sea-Tac’s minimum wage increase to $15/hr however for as widely quoted nationally as I’ve seen this article, it’s a shame nothing has been cited, no one has verified the quotes are authentic, and most importantly no one has pointed out that while the author notes “before the new hourly wage law was implemented (the woman’s) hourly wage was $7.” Which seems dubious, as the minimum wage in Washington State was, (and still is) $9.19.

    With a basic element of the story fabricated at worst, and journalistically un-verified at best, it’s hard to believe anything else about the story without some type of details or specifics.

    Too bad the false information from this information has already been widely distributed with other ‘journalists’ failing to catch the obvious error. Let’s see what happens in Sea-Tac and learn from it, good or bad… But don’t pretend you already know what’s going to happen… it just makes the opposition view look weaker and more desperate than it needs to.

  4. Dan says:

    I’m not sure I understand the anecdotal info from the “Ng blog”. For example, labor laws dictate a certain amount of vacation time every year for full-time employees, such as the cleaning lady. Also, you cannot ‘lose’ a 401K. You might lose some or all of the matching funds from the company.

    Even worse, catering staff don’t get cash tips. Their tips are pre-set (usually around 18%) and included in the contract between the customer and the hotel. Plus, the catering manager and head chef usually receive a cut of the tips anyway, so it’s not like management is going to cut their own income because of this issue.

    I think Assunta Ng has a lot of explaining to do, because those quotes just don’t make sense.

  5. Jim says:

    Utter party drivel. This article is so poorly written it’s a joke.
    1) they have not lost their medical benefits, holidays or 401k. Took me 3 sec on Google to check this!
    2) You wages do not affect your tips. this was written by someone who has not a clue about the industry.
    3) Not 1 part of this is chackable! “I talked to some one who said!!!” is just dumb!!
    4) I want free food instead of 15$ an hr is laughable!!

    All this adds up to the article being a poorly written part piece that has no touch with reality!

    People are so gullible!

    • JP says:

      Jim whines it is “poorly written” and then complains it is not “chackable.” Well, last time I “chacked” that would be poorly written.

      What is amusing is how he avoids any substantive argument, he attempts ridicule, albeit rather poorly.

      Given that the only point of the article is to report what the writer was told by hotel staff, they talking to hotel staff is not dumb, it is necessary. And, given that they are complaining about the way the hotel responded with the non-market wages they were forced to pay, using their names would have been a bad idea. Unless you want them fired.

      If people who have come to Seattle KNOW that waitstaff are being paid $15 an hour, they are going to change how they respond to tipping. If I knew an staff person got that much I wouldn’t leave any tip, zero, none, nada. Eating out is a luxury for me.

      Second, I watched South Africa’s ANC government try a new high minimum wage. At the malls all the parking staff disappeared and were replaced by machines.Their skills were simply not worth the wages mandated and unemployment sky-rocketed.

      I know the supporters claim that the price of labor has no impact on the demand for labor, but the idea it doesn’t is drivel. When prices go up demand goes down. Double the price of oranges and you buy less oranges. Double the price of houses and far few people purchase homes. This is basic econ 101. It takes one who is ideologically closed-minded to assert that reality doesn’t work that way.

      I note that “Jim” is an idiot. The article doesn’t say the workers prefer free food to $15 an hour. It says that was one of a package of things they lost. And given that they will be more highly taxed at $15 an hour, it is quite easily possible that the package of goods they lose will be of greater value than the increase. Someone who actually understood economics, unlike “Jim,” couldn’t dismiss this immediately. At the very least you need to know the hourly income before the wage increase. Salaries did go from $0 per hour to $15 per hour. It is the increase in hourly rates, compared to the lost package, that has to be compared, not the full hourly rate. That’s basic and perhaps a reason that “Jim” is guilty of what he complains about: no touch with reality and assuming people are so gullible they will believe him.

      • FA says:

        It staggers me that people simply cannot understand that “wages” are merely the cost of labor and when you hike the price of something but not the scarcity of it demand HAS to drop. Gee, it;s too bad we;re importing so much “minimum-wage” labor at a time when we;re also hiking the cost of that labor.

      • Jwveverka says:

        Let’s see how it works among the people who don’t get tips and freebies to cry about. And about that insurance bit. Get Obamacare. My wife and I pay a total of $106 a minth for the best Silver plan in NH. What so many forget about economics is that money in the people’s pockets increases demand and then factories have to restock their inventory for their customers who are the stores who sell to the people with more money. Real Wages have been flat for 30 years.

  6. Daisy says:

    Told you this law would hurt people; the law hurts the very people it’s supposed to help. Now there will be fewer jobs available to unskilled people, b/c employers who are forced to pay an above-market wage will only hire better-skilled people for those same jobs.

    Once again, liberals’ policies which claim to ‘help’ have unintended, bad consequences. Get out of the way and let the free market work. Just ask these women.

    • chris says:

      How has that “free market” thingy been working for the last 30 years??? Because the last 30 years wages have been stagnant and productivity has increased. Don’t trust me look it up. How much longer do people have to wait for the “free market” do the right thing?

      • bw says:

        Where have you seen a free market? Certainly not in the U.S. When you have ANY minimum wage, the market is already not free; it’s not allowed to set the price of labor. Multiply that by dozens of requirements and regulations, and the market is far, far from free.

      • Ron says:

        Wages have not been stagnant. Yes I know there are several places one can find on the internet that asserts they have.

        Productivity is up NOT due to Joe Blow being to produce more widgets in a given time, it is up because of technology and innovation.

        Think about it like this. Say you own a factory that makes widgets. Say you have 10 employees that each do a single step in the production of that widget. You pay each of these employees $10 an hour ($100 an hour total in labor costs).

        Now lets say they can make a total of 30 widgets an hour, and each widget is sold for $5. So they are able to produce $150 an hour in product.

        Now suppose you the owner invest into a machine that cost you $100,000 to purchase. Let us suppose this machine is able to enable your employees to now produce 60 widgets an hour. Yet they are not working harder or nay faster, they are still putting forth pretty much the same effort as before.

        Who do you think should reap the benefits of the machine in this scenario? The workers or the owner?

      • Chris Miss says:

        Is Chris implying that minimum wage earners are the engine of productivity in manufacturing?

        If so, Chris is not that smart.

  7. JamesD says:

    Something’s fishy here . . . How would the hourly wage alter the amount of tips received?

    • Stephanie says:

      My guess is that once people know staff is receiving such a high wage they feel no need to tip, as a tip is (generally) considered a way to augment a lower salary and as a reward for good service.
      In many states food servers receive $2-4 in wages and are expected to make up the difference between that and the legal minimum wage with their tips. I don’t think this is right, as there is no way to guarantee the amount or number of tips anyone might receive. However, if someone is being paid $15 an hour I personally would feel they were already well compensated for their labor and I would expect they were being ‘rewarded’ in advance for excellent service. On top of that, I’m betting prices went up in these areas, which for me would limit even further the number of times I go out, and the amount I’d be willing to spend while out, which may also explain the decrease in tips the one person quoted is claiming.

    • me says:

      You’re right. A lot about this sounds fishy, outside of the fact that 2 anecdotes are supposed to give some indication of the big picture.

      Yes, it’s totally possible that people know about the wage changes and lowered or stopped tipping as a result. But if you look at 1) the total number of people that are paying that much attention to the issue, then look at the number of people out of that group that who would care enough to take action and stop/reduce tipping (not only that, but all right at the same time, immediately when the wage change goes into effect?) there’s no way that would be enough people to make a significant enough difference that $15/hr + this new level of tipping would be worse than the previous situation. If this had started happening well after the change where the public at large had been getting hit up with messages about how they shouldn’t have to tip anymore, etc and really ingested that message over a large period of time I could see it being possible. But this sounds like some cherry picked, crafted stories to me…

      • Preston says:

        Why are people assuming that it’s the customer who just stops tipping because the wage is higher? Did it occur to anyone that in many businesses management dictates how tips are handled? Do you realize that many places make servers split tips with other servers, bar tenders, bus people, etc..? Isn’t it possible that management is splitting tips with employees to make up for the doubling of their payroll?

        • me says:

          The full amount of tips should still go to the employees. Is it because the number of employees skyrocketed that much in sucn a short period of time? Or are you telling me the company is keeping a larger percentage of the employees tips. If so, (and would that even be legal?), that would be totally wrong, and would highlight a problem with these employers, not a problem with the law or wage itself…

        • hgjobfarm says:

          Tip Credit
          : Section 3(m) of the FLSA permits an employer to take a tip credit toward its minimum
          wage
          obligation for tipped employees equal to the difference between the required cash wage (which must be
          at least $2.13) and the federal minimum wage. Thus, the maximum tip credit that an employer can
          currently claim under the FLSA is $5.12 per hour (th
          e minimum wage of $7.25 minus the minimum
          required cash wage of $2.13).

          Retention of Tips
          : A tip is the sole property of the tipped employee regardless of whether the employer
          takes a
          tip credit.
          1
          The FLSA prohibits any arrangement between the employer and the tipped employee
          whereby any part of the tip received becomes the property of the employer. For example, even where a
          tipped employee receives at least $7.25 per hour in wages di
          rectly from the employer, the employee may
          not be required to turn over his or her tips to the employer.

          http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs15.pdf

          There are laws against that kind of thing..

    • Joseph says:

      When everyone knows you are making $15 an hour, there will be fewer who are going to tip you. Secondly, the prices at restaurants have gone up in SeaTac, so that is going to affect what tips they get.

      • me says:

        except “everyone” doesn’t know that. Are you going to tell me every hotel, restaurant, every other place you’ve walked into- what you’re thinking is “hmmm…how much do these people get paid? Is it the minimum wage? is it more?…were they affected by this law, or were they already making 15 an hour… I need to figure this out, so I can adjust my tip accordingly”.

        SOME people definitely did think this and act accordingly. Most people are going through most parts of their life thinking about what everyone else is- what’s going on in their own lives. When I go to a restaurant I’m just having conversations with the people I’m eating with and enjoying my food. Bill comes, I give a tip based on pecentage. Even the argument that the prices go up, some people notice that and tip less- you really think they are tipping SO much less now that people who were making the previous minimum wage vs current it would actually make the overall amount less?? Remember they ARE still getting tips. And if research on tipping has shown people anyhting, it’s that most of the reason people do it is the social pressure of knowing hte are ‘supposed to’. This change isn’t going to cause people to suddenly start giving 2% tips or something…

        Sorry, but this was basically 2 anecdotes, and they don’t even really add up. Trying to make this into a story or proof does nothing but betray an obvious agenda. I’ll be happy to agree that the law is harmful when an actual well controlled study shows me some data to that effect. But what we’ve seen so far is that none of the effects people warn about have actually happened in areas where the minimum wage was raised in the past. But I don’t think we’ve seen a rise of this magnitude before in the past, so I agree we can’t ONLY rely on that. Whether people like it or not, we are going to have an opportunity to see now- I just hope when the data is there, people (on either side) will adjust their opinions accordingly and not cling to anecdotes to avoid admitting they were wrong…

    • abe says:

      Because the higher cost of labor gets placed on the customer. When the cost of the food is higher, less money to tip with. Plus the perception that since the waiter is now receiving a ‘living wage’, makes the lower tip guilt-free.

      • me says:

        while you could be right, mathematically the chances that enough pepole took that position within that short amount of time (that many people not only following the issue, but acting on it *right* at the time it goes into effect…) are pretty low…

    • Robert says:

      I have been following this and honestly wouldn’t have even noticed that i “shouldn’t” leave a higher tip, i just tip off the total and go on my merry way. also, why couldn’t they ask their boss/management to see what they did. I am sure they would have been happy to say, “due to the financial hardship of paying $15 an hour i had to do this and that to balance my books. Businesses in Seattle will do the same thing if they pass it.”

    • Cris says:

      Here’s how that works. If I am eating in a restaurant where I know tips are a part of the employee’s true compensation I tip well. In the early 90’s used to bus, wait tables, and work bar back and tips were why I did it (not my $2.50/hour wage). With tips I typically cleared $10 to 15 an hour which made me a very happy college student.

      However, if I know that the person pulling a dramatically over-priced beer for me at the airport is making $15 an hour (nearly as much as my teacher wife) I’ll be damned if I’m tipping. It is no longer part of the compensation.

      • Steff says:

        Cris- You do understand that your (teacher wife) would no longer be making $15 dollars an hour. She’d be making more. Fifteen is the minimum. Obviously if you are a teacher with a college degree you will be making more then the “guy at the airport pouring you your bourgeois beer.”

        In most states $15 an hour is barely getting by. Why are you people on here attacking workers and belittling them for trying to make a life for themselves? They are working and paying into our social security. This raise will stimulate our economy…because you know the ultra rich aren’t spending their money. This raise is not going to lose jobs. A human still costs less then a machine…which we all are only machines to our bosses. After reading these comments it looks to me like a few of you have become just that.

        We as workers deserve a LIVING wage! And 15 dollars an hour is just that.

        • abc says:

          Why is it “obvious” that the teacher would be making more? There is no law that says they have to proportionately compensate other workers.

        • nicole says:

          I’ve lived off of $9 per hour and that was just 3 years ago. $15 per hour is not required for someone to “live” off of. Maybe in America where people spend $70 per month on cell phone bills and believe they cannot survive without an individual 2 bedroom apartment to live in. If we are all to get paid what we deem we need to “live” off of then should single mothers of 3 children get $40 per hour?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  2. […] writer for NW Asian Weekly recently blogged about her experience attending an event at a SeaTac hotel. She asked employees if […]

  3. […] Business Week KIRO Radio KIRO Radio – Jason Rantz Show Twitter Facebook Forbes NW Asian Weekly […]

  4. […] negatively affected by a $15 minimum wage hike in the city of SeaTac, Washington. Assunta Ng of Northwest Asian Weekly spoke with SeaTac workers who have had their wages increased, but are not happy about the resulting […]

  5. […] hasn’t worked as beautifully as believers would have liked. Scrapping benefits like 401(k) plans and vacation time, and putting additional burdens on consumers such as higher parking costs, are […]

  6. […] the bulk of the negative consequences of the $15 minimum wage in SeaTac have fallen on local workers. Those making the higher wage have […]

  7. […] a conversation between a reporter and one of the alleged beneficiaries of Seattle airport’s $15/hour minimum […]

  8. […] Asian Weekly reports that employees earning the new wage in SeaTac have lost benefits such as 401k, paid holidays and […]

  9. […] more. Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recounted conversations she […]

  10. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  11. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  12. […] Sources:Business WeekKIRO RadioKIRO Radio – Jason Rantz ShowTwitterFacebookForbesNW Asian WeeklyIntuit […]

  13. […] Sources:Business WeekKIRO RadioKIRO Radio – Jason Rantz ShowTwitterFacebookForbesNW Asian WeeklyIntuit […]

  14. […] More recently, there has been evidence that employers respond to the higher minimum wage by cutting other parts of the compensation package, namely benefits. Assunta Ng writes: […]

  15. […] the consumers and getting rid of benefits that were afforded to minimum wage workers, according to local reports and blogs posted by the Washington Policy […]

  16. […] In a follow-up piece in the Asian Weekly, a handful of workers voiced this displeasure of the new wage’s unintended consequences: […]

  17. […] In a follow-up piece in the Asian Weekly, a handful of workers voiced this displeasure of the new wage’s unintended consequences: […]

  18. […] to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  19. […] United Liberty tracked down some interesting comments from workers at the blog for Northwest Asian Weekly. They found a couple of workers who were affected by the new wages. Things didn’t quite turn […]

  20. […] Weekly, a Seattle-area weekly, spoke with several workers who had recently had their hourly wage raised to $15 and experienced the negative […]

  21. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  22. […] Weekly, a Seattle-area weekly, spoke with several workers who had recently had their hourly wage raised to $15 and experienced the negative […]

  23. […] Weekly, a Seattle-area weekly, spoke with several workers who had recently had their hourly wage raised to $15 and experienced the negative […]

  24. […] Weekly, a Seattle-area weekly, spoke with several workers who had recently had their hourly wage raised to $15 and experienced the negative […]

  25. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  26. […] not all. According to Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, some employees are feeling the pinch as employers cut benefits. She recalls a conversation she had with two hotel employees who have […]

  27. […] hour “economic death wish” is having on businesses and employees in SeaTac, and this report from the Asian Weekly is especially […]

  28. […] wage this past January. Since then, reports have pointed to more trouble than good. Assunta Ng of Northwest Asian Weekly wrote of her conversations with minimum wage workers in the small city of SeaTac. What she heard […]

  29. […] wage this past January. Since then, reports have pointed to more trouble than good. Assunta Ng of Northwest Asian Weekly wrote of her conversations with minimum wage workers in the small city of SeaTac. What she heard […]

  30. […] Weekly, a Seattle-area weekly, spoke with several workers who had recently had their hourly wage raised to $15 and experienced the negative […]

  31. […] hour “economic death wish” is having on businesses and employees in SeaTac, and this report from the Asian Weekly is especially […]

  32. […] Employers respond to the higher minimum wage by cutting other parts of the compensation package, namely benefits. Assunta Ng writes: […]

  33. […] writer for NW Asian Weekly recently blogged about her experience attending an event at a SeaTac hotel. She asked employees if […]

  34. […] writer for NW Asian Weekly recently blogged about her experience attending an event at a Sea Tac hotel. She asked employees if […]

  35. […] believe the polls? How about this anecdote from SeaTac, which just bumped the minimum to $15? Assunta Ng, publisher of Northwest Asian Weekly, […]


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