Some say Seattle's new wage is discriminatory

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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At AlphaGraphics printing in Seattle, the owner says 88 percent of the employees already make at least $15 an hour, so Chuck Stempler says the fight isn't about the higher minimum wage, but instead about how the ordinance defines large and small businesses.

“I would like the City of Seattle to all businesses as the same in terms of the quantity of employees that they have,” said Stempler.

Stempler says he has only 69 employees in his two Seattle locations, but because AlphaGraphics is a national franchise, the new minimum wage law treats him as a big business with 500 employees. So he has just three years to phase in $15 an hour, while an independent competitor can take 7 years.

“I would be disadvantaged to the tune of a very significant number that would reflect in either reduced profitability or increased costs,” Stempler said.

While Molly Moon’s Ice Cream is a very different business, the owner says franchisees often get a lot of help that independent businesses don’t.

“Marketing programs, advertising programs, menus, food sourcing, food costing and training. A small business like mine has to come up with all of that from scratch,” said owner Molly Moon Neitzel.

But Stempler says AlphaGraphics provides little of that kind of support. “In the instance of this particular franchise model there is no big advertising campaign, there is no big branding, he said.”

After signing the new minimum wage into law, Mayor Murray responded to the lawsuit.  “In my mind some of them (franchisees) do struggle. But the struggle isn't around wages, it's around their relationship with their corporate partners.”

 The lawsuit is being prepared by the International Franchise Association, which represents franchise corporations and individual franchisees. No word yet on when the lawsuit will be filed.