Seattle mayor stocks minimum wage conference with leftists and progressives


THE DECIDER: Ed Murray’s conference will feature mostly big government fanatics.

By Dustin Hurst | Washington State Watchdog

A minimum-wage symposium hosted by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is stocked with progressives and other fans of big government policies.

Critics aren’t happy.

The one-day symposium, sponsored by the city and hosted by Seattle University, is delivering discussion on a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a controversial topic Murray and other leaders are exploring.

Unfortunately for anyone looking for fair and even debate, most of the presenters at Thursday’s shindig approve of, and are outspoken proponents of, raising the wage.

Consider first the presence of Saru Jayaraman, founder of the controversial Restaurant Opportunities Center. ROC, as it’s affectionately known, is a union-aligned nonprofit that uses guerilla tactics to protest restaurants for paying low wages. On occasion, ROC distorts the facts to make its argument, claiming that restaurant workers make slave-wages at just more than the federally mandated $2.13 an hour for tipped workers.

Paul Sonn, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, also is on the docket to talk at the confab. Though the group comes with an innocuous moniker, these folks are hardly neutral in the minimum-wage debate. As part of its operations, NELP sponsors splinter groups across the country that drum up support for wage hikes at a local level.

NELP boasts a union president, a left-wing policy group leader and several other social justice-friendly people on its governing board.

The panel discussion even features an avowed socialist, Seattle City Councilor Kshama Sawant.

The Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Olympia, calculated that of the 18 scheduled speakers, only two haven’t publicly expressed an opinion on the issue and only one presenter is against raising the wage.

Max Nelson, a senior labor analyst with the Freedom Foundation, slammed the mayor’s office for failing to provide some balance during the conference.

“Seattle had a great opportunity to use the symposium to have a real debate and dialogue about the pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage,” Nelson told

“Instead, the city decided to have a completely one-sided echo chamber of pro-minimum wage speakers. The city’s decision-making process will certainly suffer by choosing to ignore the voices of the many economics, academics and policy experts who have grave concerns about dramatically increasing the minimum wage.”

Jasmine Donovan, granddaughter of the founder of Seattle-based Dick’s Drive-In restaurants, represents the only dissenting voice in the bunch. She told the Seattle Times earlier this month the $15 hour rate would raise her business costs by $1.5 million and force company leaders to consider cutting critical benefits for workers.

Mike Paranzino, communications director for ROC Exposed, a group that works to counter ROC’s initiatives, also sounded off on the Seattle conference.

“Economic growth, job creation, opportunities for enhancing one’s education and skills — the factors that actually reduce economic inequality will be sorely missing from this big government, big labor shindig,” Paranzino told

Contact Dustin Hurst at