Workers’ rights group Working Washington has called a boycott against Seattle businesses that oppose the $15 Minimum Wage Law, which was unanimously passed by Seattle Council in the beginning of June — and many of the businesses in question are right on Capitol Hill.
The boycott has targeted 22 specific shops and stores that have gone public with their oppositions against the Minimum Wage Law, which proposes the highest minimum wage in the nation. According to Support Seattle Workers, a number of Capitol Hill businesses have aligned with funders trying to repeal the minimum wage, including Liberty Bar, Von Trapp’s, Garage, Poquitos, and Coastal Kitchen.
Working Washington is a group making an active effort to “unite low wage workers to fight for working wages in a fair economy.” Spokesperson Sage Wilson believes that the public has the right to know where their money is going.
“People vote with their dollars,” Wilson said. “People want to know where they’re spending their money; they want to know, ‘what kind of Seattle is this place fighting for?’”
On July 1, several members of Working Washington picketed outside of Liberty Bar at approximately 12 p.m. According to Liberty Bar owner Andrew Friedman, the picketing consisted of a 30 minute speech and several picketers entering the business as customers.
“It was quite humorous; they tipped well, I can tell you that,” Friedman said. “We had a lot of people come by because they heard that this was happening and they wanted to come and support us.”
Friedman chimed into the debate in an editorial published by The Stranger in April of 2014, claiming that the minimum wage raise will do more harm than good for local businesses.
“When we talk about this, we’re more often than not accused of lying, or we’re accused of exaggerating,” Friedman wrote. “Local independent businesses WILL close, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work. Just ask around.”
Friedman still retains the opinions that were published in his April Stranger editorial, and is dismayed by the boycott.
“It’s hard to say whether the boycott is impacting us at all; we’ve been thankfully busy,” Friedman said. “We’ve been in business for 8 years. I find it a shame that they are targeting the exact businesses that are going to be affected the most… the ones with the highest probability to not survive.”
According to Eater Seattle, a Poquitos investor contributed $150 dollars to Forward Seattle, a grassroots group in support of a Referendum on the Minimum Wage Law. However, James Weimann, co-owner of Poquitos and Von Trapp’s says he is “not affiliated with Forward Seattle.”
“What I do know is that what’s passed is something gradual, and by next year the minimum wage will only be ten dollars an hour,” Wilson said. “The idea that many of these successful businesses can’t afford to pay ten dollars an hour is hard to believe.
Forward Seattle aims to “[represent] Seattle’s local, independent businesses who need a unified voice in Seattle’s minimum wage debate.” Along with efforts to collect 16,510 verified signatures by end of the June for the Referendum to qualify for the November ballot, the group has thus far raised $46,200 towards their goal of $85,000.
Wilson additionally believes that the public has been widely misled about the minimum wage’s actual impact by Forward Seattle.
“We are trying to get the word out about how the petition is proposing to repeal the wage law, and is not an alternative proposal.” Wilson said. “We have heard reports of people who signed it to find out that that wasn’t the case. We want people to know what they’re signing.”
Forward Seattle was not able to provide us with a comment at this time, but will soon be issuing a press release in response to the call for a boycott.
“It goes beyond having an opinion to taking away from 100,000 workers trying to pull out of poverty,” Wilson said.