Holiday Roundup 1: Minimum wage increase challenges employers, puts jobs at risk

We’ve been on a bit of a holiday hiatus over the last few weeks, but couldn’t resist occasionally dipping into the news cycle. As 2017 begins, there are a few storied we wanted to call out in a short series of roundup posts. 

We begin with the implementation of the minimum wage hike, which has added to small business stress in towns large and small across the state.

Yakima Herald-Republic: Yakima employers eye strategies to confront rising minimum wage

Come Jan. 1, Washington state employers and business owners will see the first of several increases in the minimum wage under Initiative 1433. The initiative, which was approved by 57 percent of statewide voters last month, will increase the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020 as well as implement mandatory sick leave (starting in 2018). The first increase will put the minimum wage statewide at $11 an hour, an increase of 16.2 percent from $9.47 this year…

Much of the attention nationwide around increasing minimum wage has been about its impact on fast-food restaurants. But food service operators across all levels — from fast food to fine dining — will see a rise in labor costs with the new wage.

However, the strategies restaurant owners are adopting to cover the increased minimum wage vary as much as their respective cuisines. 

Bellingham Herald: Minimum-wage bump means tough choices for restaurant owners

It gets to the point where every aspect of the restaurant is examined. White, for instance, is pondering whether to buy pre-sliced cheese, which is about 50 cents more a pound. However, he now estimates that it’s less expensive than paying someone to slice it.

“Minimum wage increases are having a profound effect on restaurants,” White said.

The Mill Creek Pub recently swapped notepads for handheld tablet computers to streamline orders between waitstaff and the cooks.

In the kitchen, there is a recently bought $17,000 high-tech oven with pre-programmed recipes that replaces 1 1/2 employees, according to owner Russell Brent.

And, while we’re on labor regulation, note this:

Seattle Times: Hotel trade groups sue over Seattle initiative that gives new rights to workers

Hospitality associations are suing Seattle over new rights for hotel workers and new requirements for hotels that the city’s voters approved last month with Initiative 124.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association, Washington Hospitality Association and Seattle Hotel Association say I-124 provisions duplicate or clash with existing federal and state laws. 

The groups are particularly alarmed by the provision requiring hotels to keep lists of guests whom workers accuse of sexual assault or harassment.

“The hotel is required to place the guest’s name on a list, whether or not the employee is willing to sign a sworn statement, make a police report or offer any supporting evidence,” says a complaint filed Monday in King County Superior Court.