Seattle, WA- “People like me are finding themselves in a tougher situation than ever,” said Seattle pizza shop employee Devin Jeran in comments to Q13 FOX News. Earlier this month, Jeran was the recipient of a raise, as Seattle’s mandated minimum wage hike began to kick in, forcing large businesses with more than 500 employees and small business franchises to first begin paying employees $11 per hour starting this month before being required to raise wages to $15 per hour by 2017. Small businesses without franchise relationships are allowed to wait until 2021 to raise their wages to $15 per hour.
Though Jeran will receive a bigger paycheck until August, his paychecks will stop for good after that, as the small business Z Pizza franchise at which he works is set to close under pressure from the new minimum wage law. The franchise’s owner, Ritu Shah Burnham, described the efforts she’s already taken to adapt to the phased increase to the new $11 minimum hourly wage, “I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself.” However, the fact that her 12-employee business has a franchise relationship with Z Pizza means that, under the new minimum wage law, she is required to retool her business such that it can stay open while paying employees $15 per hour within just 2 years, rather than being able to wait until 2021 like other small businesses, a feat Burnham says she can not manage. “I know that I would have stayed here if I had 7 years, just like everyone else, if I had an even playing field. The discrimination I’m feeling right now against my small business makes me not want to stay and do anything in Seattle,” she said.
Earlier this year, International Franchise Association representative Matthew Haller spoke out against the discriminatory nature of Seattle’s new minimum wage law in terms of how it affects small business franchises and said in comments to CNBC, “Franchisees are often small and local, and face the same challenges that other small businesses face. The franchise system is still a network of small businesses that will face irreparable harm due to these extra costs.”
Burnham told Q13 FOX News that she worries about what her employees will do after her business closes, “I absolutely am terrified for them. I have no idea where they’re going to find jobs, because if I’m cutting hours, I imagine everyone is across the board.”