President’s Column: A time for solutions

President’s Column: A time for solutions

By Anthony Anton, President and CEO

2015 was the longest legislative session in Washington state history. And while advocates were pushing for a new minimum wage law at the state level, unions were gaining ground on ordinances and ballot initiatives at the local level. On top of those moving pieces, the world was waiting to see how the minimum wage increase would impact Seattle. Belief that the minimum wage must be increased has permeated the public: 40 percent of voters support $15 an hour while an even greater percentage support $12 an hour (58 percent). It was clear to us, as the discussions were had in every arena, that we had to start a new conversation about minimum wage.

We’ve now seen firsthand that in order to be the best advocate for local restaurants, we can no longer just stand in opposition to ideas. We have to be a source of solutions. We have to do more than just say “no.” In looking for solutions we found there is a workable way and a wrong way to increase wages.

We are the state that revolutionized the way the world thinks about air travel, computers, shopping and even coffee. Why shouldn’t passion for innovative solutions drive us, instead of 100-year-old “We good – they bad” caveman politics?

Unfortunately, during the session, the majority of people, in Olympia, were not looking for solutions.  There were some statewide solutions offered on minimum wage. Two bills would have increased the state minimum wage to $12 per hour over a four-year period. Another bill would have would phased in a $13 per hour minimum wage over five years and included a credit for tip income and health care benefits. However, these ideas were put down by advocates on both sides of the issue.

As the next session arrives, we will be working to find a solution. We will be looking to talk with lawmakers and stakeholders to move forward for a better Washington for all of our members and their customers. The WRA will be a leader not in digging fox holes, but in setting tables for a discussion around innovative solutions.

(Source: Washington Restaurant & Lodging Magazine, September 2015)