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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Initiative 1433: Pro: Wage increase means more customers for businesses

Shahrokh Nikfar

I opened my coffee shop and restaurant in downtown Spokane almost two years ago. From the beginning, I knew that the most important assets of my businesses are my employees. Caring for their well-being and treating them with respect have been the best decisions I have made.

As a result, they love their jobs, take great care of my businesses and continue to contribute beyond my expectations.

Success in business should not ever be based on supporting an economy of poverty. Rather, it needs to be a win-win situation for all of us.

That’s why I’m voting yes on Initiative 1433 to raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 over four years and allow all workers to earn paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do and smart for Spokane’s economy.

As families get priced out of the middle class, businesses like mine lose customers. Every year, the cost of rent, groceries and utilities go up, as do things like movie tickets and dinners out. What hasn’t kept up is wages – and that hurts businesses like mine.

But by raising the minimum wage over four years, we will put $600 more in the pockets of more than 730,000 Washington workers, according to a Washington State Budget & Policy Center analysis. And when minimum-wage workers earn more, they spend more, and businesses like mine thrive and hire more employees. That’s why the Budget & Policy Center estimates Initiative 1433 will inject $2.5 billion in spending into our economy every year.

Starting in 2018, Initiative 1433 will also allow more than 1 million workers to earn paid sick leave, which is just common sense – the Spokane City Council already passed a similar law. I already offer paid leave to my employees and I pay above minimum wage. As a result, I’ve saved money from lower employee turnover.

Please don’t fall for the scare tactics from opponents. They always make the same claims: job losses, price increases, lost hours. Study after study has proved these claims false. In fact, every state that raised its wage in 2014 saw faster job growth than states that didn’t. And over 70 years of federal minimum wage increases, the majority of federal minimum wage increases led to increases in employment.

Their predictions didn’t come true in Seattle, either. Don’t believe their distortions – since Seattle raised its minimum wage, workers and families are earning more, people are working more hours, more businesses have opened and there’s been no evidence of price increases because of the minimum wage.

Initiative 1433 is a common-sense, gradual approach that works for the rest of the state and gives business owners time to plan.

The last time the state voted to raise the minimum wage was in 1998, and the same corporate lobbyists opposing this campaign made the same false claims. The sky didn’t fall then, and it won’t fall now.

Instead, hundreds of thousands of Washington families will get a raise and be able to earn paid sick leave. It’s good for our workers, our families and our economy.

Shahrokh Nikfar is the owner of Caffé Affogato and Mediterrano restaurant in Spokane.