Small business owners dismayed over passing of minimum wage initiative

Small business owners dismayed over passing of minimum wage initiative

SPOKANE, Wash. - Washington Initiative 1433 had the attention of many small business owners on Tuesday night. The proposal passed, and Washington will raise the minimum wage $4 over the next four years. 

Bobbie Gunkel owns and operates River Park Square's Oil & Vinegar. It's one of a handful of franchises nationwide, and half of a pair set in Washington State, with the other located in Bellevue. Gunkel's employees? Generally younger people.

"This job is for a transition in life - just out of high school or college," describes Gunkel. Sometimes they're just figuring out what they want to do in life, so they'll come work here for a year or two, then go 'oh yeah, now I know what I want to be.'"

I-1433, which will raise the state minimum wage $4 over four years, passed in King County by a 72-28 margin. Locally, Spokane County denied the measure 54-46.

"It just doesn't make a lot of sense here because it's going to increase my wages. On a slow month it's $1,000 a month, and the money's got to come from somewhere."

Small franchise and business owners aren't the only Eastern Washington residents troubled with the initiative. Attorney Roger Coomes attended a downtown business luncheon at the Onion this afternoon and shared his thoughts regarding the wage hike. He was clear his opinions were his, and did not reflect those of his law firm.

"Our economy is much different here than the greater Seattle area," declared Coomes. "I think we have a difference in affordability for goods and services for workers. For me, the appropriate solution would be a local solution, rather than a statewide solution."

While the profit margins of local restaurateurs and franchisee owners immediately come to mind, Coomes offers another fundamental argument:

"What is the purpose of minimum wage? Is it for someone to be able to afford a house? When minimum wage first came in I don't think that was the intent."