Courtesy of Annie's Nannies
Annie Davis in the center with staff.

Ballard business bumps minimum wage to $15

The $15 minimum wage debate has made some headway in Ballard. Annie Davis, founder of a 30-year-old Ballard based business, Annie’s Nannies, announced last week that she will be paying all of her employees $15 an hour.

Annie’s is a service that links clients to nannies. They employ 4 fulltime, 3 part-time and 60 temporary workers.

“I challenge every business that can afford it to do the same. My company’s new pay scale is my positive protest to draw attention to the need for a higher minimum wage and to pay everyone who works a living wage,” wrote Davis last week in a statement.

Though her employees were already making close to $15 an hour, Davis said that the little extra makes a difference.

“Most people working in Seattle can’t afford to live here. I want my employees to be able to live in the city they work in. … Even $15 an hour might not be enough to cover the high cost of living in Seattle,” said Davis.

Davis said that her business is doing well, reporting her best quarter since 2008. Davis said her clientele are largely upper-middle class families that can afford to pay for nannies. Moreover, Davis thinks those families paying for nanny services are a good indicator of economic conditions.

“Those in the household staffing industry have long said, ‘What happens to us is a precursor of where the economy is heading.’ “

With good earning reports Davis feels she can afford to pay her employees the higher wage and that she has a moral obligation to do so.

Still, Davis is not fully endorsing the 15 Now movement proposed by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant.

Seattle’s current wage is already the highest in the nation at $9.19. There is fear that after an increase, businesses will compensate by trimming staff and increasing prices.

Some Seattle industry leaders have already threatened pullbacks. Last week at the Port of Seattle’s round table discussion about the economic condition of the Maritime industry, business leaders adamantly discouraged the wage increase. Some threatened they would move their minimum wage jobs outside of the city.

“When the City steps in with regulations that really get into the heart of how we manage and run our businesses, it makes us all very nervous and uncomfortable, and when you make business nervous and uncomfortable, business doesn’t invest. Business doesn’t try to grow. Business sits back and waits to see what’s going to happen before we make plans for the long term,” said Brian Thomas, Kvichak Marine.

However, Davis feels that larger corporations should be paying the higher wage and would be better able to absorb the extra payroll than small business.

“When we do create minimum wage laws, exemptions need to be considered including special pay scales for entry level positions and teenagers; those who make tips; and businesses and non-profits operating on shoe-string budgets.”

“I’m not in favor of the City mandating the wage across the board, it would be impossible for some businesses to handle it. Imagine a coffee shop paying $4000 rent, insurance, taxes and then $15 an hour per employee – that’s a lot of cups of coffee they need to sell just to get by. However, if you a large chain or if your business can afford, I think they should.”

With over 68% of Seattle voters supporting the wage increase, the big question is how will the City phase it in and will there be exemptions for small businesses. Will different industries have different wages?

Davis said that a revenue threshold would be one way the City could determine which businesses pay the higher wage

“$15 an hour seems quite arbitrary to me, but I guess you have to start somewhere. …I think any business that grosses $1 million a year should have to pay their employees $15.  If I ever made that much money, I’d pay my employees a whole lot more than $15!”

Clarification could be on the way. The city council has commissioned a report that studies the effects of a $15 wage that’s set to release this month. The report could give a better picture on how to differentiate between large and small businesses, and whether they will pay the higher wage.

But in the meantime Annie’s Nannies employees have a raise to celebrate.

“You can’t keep an economy going with people living in poverty. … My employees do the day to day work that makes my company profitable and they deserve to be paid for it.”

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