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Eye On Olympia

Tue., July 31, 2007, 9:09 a.m.

Good times: Labor weighs in…

Rick Bender, president of the state Labor Council, on the high marks Forbes magazine and some other measures give to the state's business climate these days:

A few short years ago, it was fashionable among business lobbyists to declare -- as former Boeing executive Alan Mulally infamously said -- that "we suck." They said our state's highest-in-the-nation minimum wage, high unemployment benefits, high taxes and high workers' compensation costs were all, well, too high.

But in general, Bender said, the state's "high-road strategy" for workers and their families has paid off:

Despite repeated dire predictions -- which continue to this day -- that our inflation-adjusted minimum wage is killing jobs, the reality is that these service-sector industries continue to thrive and add jobs. That's because those higher wages are spent in local communities, benefiting local businesses. One Clarkston pizza shop owner, who was previously the Association of Washington Business poster child for doomed Washington-Idaho border restaurateurs, told The New York Times this year: "To tell you the truth, my business is fantastic. I’ve never done as much business in my life."

The Association of Washington Business' Richard Davis sounds a cautionary note about the good news, saying that such rankings typically mix objective and subjective measures. "On the ground, experiences will vary," he says.

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