The Minimum Wage Question

Written by Sylvia Fuerstenberg, former executive director, The Arc of King County

As a leader of a nonprofit organization, I worry about many things, including the well-being of my staff. They provide top-notch service to clients every day. These professionals are well-trained, conscientious people who choose to give so much of themselves in their daily work for the benefit of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Trust me when I tell you that I want to make sure they are fairly compensated for their amazing work!

That is why the question of the $15 minimum wage in Seattle continues to bother me. Like other nonprofit leaders who are talking about the issue, we want to pay our staff more money. But the reality of the fiscal situation is complicated in the nonprofit sector. If the mandated wage suddenly grows to $15 per hour, we will be forced to eliminate positions – taking away their wages all together. That clearly is not my desired outcome.

Since the article that I wrote in The Seattle Times last month, I’ve been meeting with many nonprofit executives and small business leaders to discuss the options, and I recently sat down with the mayor to explore the issue in more detail.  We all want what best for our staff and our organizations. Many smart people care about this issue, and I hope we will see a plan that is fair for everyone who is affected.

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