Lawmakers & business owners react to push for $15 minimum wage

SEATTLE -- Fast-food workers have been saying it for months. Now Seattle City Council members are saying it too.

“You cannot support a family on $9.19 an hour,” Councilman Mike O’Brien told a crowd rallying outside City Hall Thursday night.

In Washington, $9.19 is the current minimum wage. Many people say it’s not enough to get by on.

“I’m only supporting myself,” said Karl Balogh, who works two fast-food jobs. “There are people out there who have kids and families to support. I can’t imagine how they can begin to do that when I’m having trouble.”

Crystal Thompson is a single mom, trying to support her family with her job at Domino’s Pizza.

“It’s hard, I’m living check to check,” she said.

She thinks major fast-food companies can afford to pay their workers more, so she’s pushing for a $15 minimum wage.

But if that passed in Seattle, small businesses like the family-owned Mimosa Café would also be forced to pay up.

“A big corporation, they probably have lots and lots of money. They have franchises all over helping them,” says Thui Nguyen. “But this is just one business. It’s just my mom.”

She’s not sure her mom could stay in business if she had to pay all employees $15 an hour or more.

Otman Bezzaz, the owner of Med Mix, says the only way he could afford to pay employees 70% more would be to charge customers more.

“Now you’re going to jump prices 70%. Not just me, but everybody’s going to do it to survive,” he said. “If not, I’m going to have to close the door. Then I’ll go work for $15, too.”

City Councilwoman-elect Kshama Sawant, who ran on the $15 minimum wage platform, was asked what she would say to those small business owners who would be affected.

“The biggest danger facing working people and small businesses, both, is the fact there’s not enough consumption power in the hands of working people,” she said. “When you can’t put a roof over your head, you don’t have money to buy extra goods and services. So the best thing we can do is to raise the wage to a point where people are able to carry out some consumption.”