I-1433 drawing mixed reaction from business owners

Minimum wage initiative drawing mixed reaction from business owners

SPOKANE, Wash. - Walk into Cafe Affogato, and you won't find yourself ordering any ordinary cup of coffee. The business prides itself on offering an authentic Italian coffee you can't find anywhere else. Owner Shahrokh Nikfar also prides himself on providing quality benefits to his employees.

"Restaurant business usually suffers from a higher rate of turnover. I don't," said Nikfar. "My employees have mostly been here from the beginning."

Nikfar pays his employees above minimum wage and offers five days of paid sick leave. He says it's why he's so successful, and why he supports Initiative 1433.

"It just makes complete sense," he said.

This November, Washington voters will decide if they want to see an increase in the state's minimum wage. Initiative 1433 would raise Washington's minimum wage incrementally to $13.50 by 2020 and would require employers to provide paid sick leave.

Nikfar says I-1433 can only help his business.

"That gives them enough discretionary income to not only be able to meet their basic needs, but also, maybe once a week come get a latte where they couldn't have done that before," he said.

But not all business owners feel the same way.

Rosa Wiess is also a small business owner in Spokane. She owns Clear Choice Tax Services, which provides tax services to other small businesses. She says I-1433 will end up doing more harm than good.

"People that are just barely scraping by are probably going to end up going out of business," Wiess said.

She says she believes the initiative has good intentions, but when you look at the numbers, it doesn't work.

"We'll, of course, have to put out the added income for the wages, plus all the extra taxes that go with it," she said. "So, really, what we're putting out exceeds what the person is gaining."

Wiess says I-1433 could lead to unwanted layoffs and an increase in the price of goods. But Nikfar says he's run some numbers of his own and doesn't believe that's true.

"I'm not going to have to raise prices much," he said. "If I do, like on a latte that's $4, I might have to increase it by a dime if my market doesn't increase."

Nikfar admits it would take the market several months to catch up to the wage increase, but once it does, he believes businesses will thrive.