Brainless in Seattle

You’ve heard the battle cries over paying workers a “living wage.” Now, get ready for the next phase: “Livable schedules.”

On the heels of Seattle passing a controversial $15 minimum wage law, the City Council there is now drafting an ordinance that aims to shift power away from employers when it comes to how workers are scheduled and paid.

“I think there is a sense among some workers that they are being abused,” Seattle City Council member Lorena Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is leading the effort to impose new rules on how employers schedule their workers. The ordinance is still being written, but it is expected to include:

A guarantee that workers get at least 11 hours of down time between shifts

A requirement that workers get schedules a week in advance, or else be paid time-and-a-half if shifts are added inside that timeframe

A requirement that employers pay employees for a few hours of work not performed if shifts are taken away


Such laws will help employees, right? Sure they will. Unless you consider some relevant facts:

Employers have an interest in pleasing employees already. If they want good people, they have to treat their employees well. At the same time, if they want to stay in business, they have to consider the need for profit. Restaurants and stores are not charities. They are not funded by external sources. They are funded by customers.

Pricing and store policies all represent a delicate balance among customers, employers and employees. If you screw with that balance, you harm the business. If you harm the business, you harm everyone involved – the customers, the employers and the employees.

The market is run by supply and demand. The fewer employees available to fill the slots in stores and restaurants, the more business owners must compete to find employees. This will tend to drive up wages and benefits. The more employees are available to fill the limited slots, the less restaurant owners will have to pay. That’s just how it works.

Now the local government of Seattle steps in and tells employers, “We know the market does not require you to pay people more, and give them more time off with pay, and the like. But we’re going to make you do it anyway.” This can have one of two effects. Either the cost of the food/goods/services will go up, thereby hurting customers; or the employers will simply have to go out of business. Regardless of how you project it, everyone will pay in the end. Everyone, that is, except for the politicians, who are almost never (especially in progressive enclaves like Seattle) held accountable for the damage they do.

It’s so easy for ignorant, righteous politicians to proclaim that conditions should be better for the workers, to the cheers and applause of those who know or care nothing whatsoever about what it takes to run a business. The politicians don’t have to pay the penalty. Customers, employers and ultimately employees will.

Because Seattle’s minimum wage and employer laws are becoming so draconian, compared to other parts of the country, another possibility is that businesses will move out of Seattle or Washington state altogether. Seattle, while still a scenic place to visit, will no longer be as affordable or desirable a place to visit or live in.

Social progressives understand nothing about the reality of running a business. They are economically ignorant poseurs who wield destruction everywhere they are allowed to rule. In places like Seattle and Washington state, they’re given virtually unfettered capacity to run wild and destroy all businesses in their path.

While it’s true that some posing, preening leftist business people claim to support such mandates, you hear a different tune from objective economists. Jacob Vigdor, a professor at The University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy, has been studying the effects of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law and sees similarities for businesses in livable schedules.

“It makes it more expensive for them to get business done unless they find a way to get business done using fewer employees overall,” Vigdor said.

You think?

If these socialist hacks running Seattle really cared about the well-being of the worker, they’d do everything possible to expand supply. “Expanding supply” means creating more restaurants, stores and other business where people can work. Of course, governments cannot create jobs or businesses, and should not try. What they should do is massively cut taxes, cut spending and government regulation, ideally to the point where they only focus on police, courts and the minimal protection of private property rights every civilization and economy require.

If more businesses existed, they would have to compete for employees and would undoubtedly offer some of the benefits now being mandated by the government. Instead, the government mandates will close more businesses down, make others unprofitable and require more people to be unemployed and live off the government dole.

Maybe that’s what the socialists and progressives want?

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