Culinary no-no #532

Photo: AP

Low wage workers demonstrated around the country for a much higher minimum wage.

One of those spots was Seattle.

The woman pictured above is Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant. No one pushed harder in Seattle for a $15 minimum wage than Sawant who advocated for what amounts to the highest minimum wage in the world.

Sawant was a part-time economics instructor a few years ago at Seattle Central Community College before she was fired. I mention that because Sawant is a socialist, yes a real socialist.

Sawant is a member of Socialist Alternative, a political party formed in 1986 with a “Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism.” The group’s website says it believes that “the dictatorships that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were perversions of what socialism is really about. We are for democratic socialism where ordinary people will have control over our daily lives.”

In an interview Sawant said, “People have an interest in rebuilding the left in the U.S. There are scores of young people who are looking for alternatives to capitalism.”

In May of 2014  Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It didn’t take long for the mayor to act.

One month after announcing his plan, Murray signed a bill into law providing for an increase in the minimum wage in the City of Seattle to $15 an hour, phased in over time, beginning April 2015.

  • Small employers (businesses with fewer than 500 employees) will reach a $15 an hour minimum wage in seven years. Also established is a temporary guaranteed minimum compensation responsibility of $15 an hour to be met within the first five years, which can be achieved by combining employer-paid health care contributions, consumer-paid tips, and employer-paid wages.
  • Large employers (businesses with 500 or more employees, either in Seattle or nationally) will reach $15 per hour in three years. The wages of employees who receive health care benefits will reach $15 per hour in four years.

(Incidentally Murray announced his resignation this past Tuesday after The Seattle Times published allegations from Murray’s cousin saying he  was sexually abused by Murray in the 1970s. Murray’s cousin is the fifth person to accuse the mayor of sexual abuse decades ago. The mayor denies all the accounts).

What happened after the minimum wage law took effect?

The University of Washington found that when wages increased to $13 in 2016, some companies may have responded by cutting low-wage workers’ hours. The study, which was funded in part by the city of Seattle, found that workers clocked 9% fewer hours on average, and earned $125 less each month after the most recent increase.

It seems that the higher the increases the more negative the effect. As the Denver Post editorialized this summer:

Relatively few people in this country make the minimum wage, so a small increase doesn’t make that much difference to most workers, or most employers. But a large jump affects more people, and the wage increases are much bigger for the lowest-paid staffers. If you make $9 an hour, but generate $10.50 in revenue for your boss, a law that raises the wage to $10.45 may cause her to shrug and decide it’s easier to keep you on as long as she’s making something. But a wage that forces her to pay you far more than you bring in? Continuing to employ you would just be bad business.

We’ve heard about the pitfalls of a minimum wage increase before. They fall on deaf ears to folks like the Socialist Sawant. But the aforementioned study, funded in part by the city that approved the phased-in increases, clearly demonstrates the well-intentioned policy does more harm than good.

But that’s not this week’s no-no.

NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam last week reported on research conducted by Srikant Devaraj at Ball State University in Indiana along with co-authors  Subir Chakrabarti and Pankaj Pate. They looked at the minimum wage with specific emphasis on Seattle. What they found was startling.

Here’s what Devaraj told NPR:

“We find that a dollar increase in minimum wage resulted in a 6.4 percent increase in overall health violations and 15.3 percent increase in less severe violations as a result of the increases.”

What does he mean by “less serious violations?”

“Protection from contamination, like things like – insect, rodents, animals, employee cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities – whether they were properly constructed, supplied and cleaned; the garbage has been properly disposed of.”

Stop. I must interject here.

In Culinary no-no #334 posted on July 13, 2014, I wrote about the late Milwaukee Journal restaurant critic Dennis Getto:

Everyone I knew couldn’t say enough about the old Coerper’s Five O’Clock Club, now the Five O’Clock Steakhouse. They drooled and still do over the perfectly exquisite slabs of beef swimming in natural juices, the size of a Brett Favre weapon.

That’s why I will never forget Getto’s scathing April 2003 review of one of the most popular steakhouses in town. Getto wrote of Coerper’s 5 O’Clock Club:

I’ve visited and reviewed Coerper’s many times and have always been put off by the place.

I dislike its loud, smoky atmosphere (numbers for orders are called over a loudspeaker; smokers are allowed at the bar and all tables), its ban on walk-ins (exceptions made, but who knows when?) and its cookie-cutter approach to grilled meats (they’re all covered with the same dark crust and set in the same dark meat juice).

Coerper’s sticks with an old-time Wisconsin tradition by making you sit down in the bar and order from there (presumably, while you also have a drink). If you are unlucky enough not to know the system, Jimmy will set you straight, pronto. I saw him bark at one clueless group of men who were milling around the hostess stand.

You are not required to ask permission to use the restrooms. If you do, be prepared to negotiate your way around a bottle of disinfectant bleach, a toilet brush and a plunger.

Most of the customers at Coerper’s come for the red meat, and especially the steaks. With options in town like Mr. B’s, the Chop House, Eddie Martini’s, Mo’s and Butch’s Old Casino Steak House, I won’t be joining them.

As much as I liked and respected my friend, I thought Getto’s review was very unfair. A plunger in the restroom? Thank goodness it wasn’t in the kitchen.

Back to the present. I find the so-called “less serious violations” in Seattlerto be quite serious.

NPR’s Vedantum said this in NPR’s report:

Now, we don’t know what the long-term trends are. It could be that over five years, this is going to look very different as the effects of the minimum wage shakeout. It could also be this is the effect of raising the minimum wage.

And one implication is if cities are going to raise the minimum wage, one thing they might want to do is step up inspections of these more minor violations because you can expect that businesses that face higher costs might sometimes seek to cut corners.

And to repeat…

“Protection from contamination, like things like – insect, rodents, animals, employee cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities – whether they were properly constructed, supplied and cleaned; the garbage has been properly disposed of.”

No thank you.


Cheese tea





One thought on “Culinary no-no #532

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (09/25/17) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s