Olympia considers $15 minimum wage; WRC examines effect on young workers

A new poll shows 69 percent of Olympia voters favor a $15 minimum wage in the capital city. 

The poll was conducted Jan. 22-25 by Patinkin Research Strategies, a research firm based in Portland, Oregon. According to the firm, 400 registered voters in Olympia were interviewed via telephone about their preferences for a $15 minimum wage.

The poll sampled people who were likely to vote in 2015, and about 65 percent were over age 50, said Ben Patinkin, president of the research firm.

That age breakdown is interesting, particularly when you consider that the workers most likely negatively affected by the rising minimum are the young and experienced. The Washington Research Council recently updated charts telling the story.
Washington teen unemployment rate is considerably higher than the U.S. average, no doubt – at least in part – because of the high state minimum wage (with no tip credit or training wage for young workers).
Some of those interviewed by the Olympian expressed concern about the effect of a $15 wage on business and the community.

…Max Brown, an Olympia resident who chairs the city’s planning commission [said], “I understand the argument that you’re going to get more money in the pockets of the people, but small businesses and entrepreneurs are not going to be able to make it work.”

One problem the minimum wage issue fails to address is income inequality and the shrinking middle class, he said. For example, a higher wage isn’t the same as lifting people up into higher-paying jobs through training and education.

“Until you’re able to step aside from the politics and think about it holistically, it’s really difficult to get good answers,” he said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.”

Right. Training and education expand opportunity for everyone. The elevated wage risks reducing opportunities for young workers hoping to gain the skills and experience that will be careers and expand prosperity.