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Survey: Minimum Wage Hike Could Force Nonprofits To Cut Services

Workers and labor activists demonstrate outside the U.S. District Courthouse in support of the city's $15 an hour minimum wage
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph
Fast-food workers and minimum wage advocates marched from SeaTac to Seattle in December as part of a national demonstration for a $15 minimum wage.

A Seattle Human Services Coalition survey says increasing the minimum wage to $15 would hurt critical services for low-income families. Out of the 29 nonprofits surveyed, 21 said they would have to cut services if forced to raise wages to that level.

Steve Daschle, co-chair of Seattle Human Services Coalition, said he supports raising the minimum wage. He said it’s critical that people are paid a living wage.

However, Daschle is also the executive director of Southwest Youth and Family Services, which provides clients with access to licensed mental health counseling, youth violence prevention, teen parent GED services and school reentry programs. He knows firsthand that nonprofits like his already work within impossibly slim profit margins.

In many cases, that means paying people less than $15.

“In the public sector it can be resolved because the public sector has the ability to raise taxes if they chose to do so," Daschle said. "But many of us in the nonprofit sector depend a great deal on philanthropy and there are limited philanthropic dollars, and those limited dollars are spread more thinly if we have to pay higher wages."

It’s a problem that Daschle believes policymakers need to work out.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is pushing for the minimum wage increase. Sawant said taxing big businesses to help small businesses and nonprofits would be one way to make it work.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray also supports an increase. The mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee, which Sawant is on, is examining the issue and plans to have a recommendation sometime in April.