Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce organized a luncheon today for members to learn about the proposal to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour.  And it invited representatives of the group collecting signatures to place the proposal on November’s ballot to participate.

But 15 Now Tacoma, a group of local citizens with backing from SEIU labor union, some local church leaders and others, said they were two busy over the next several weeks to meet with business representatives and dialogue. Instead, attendees at the chamber luncheon were shown a YouTube video (linked here) with 15 Now spokesman Mike Ladd speaking out in favor of the higher minimum wage.

The audience largely comprised of local business owners and employees seemed convinced that they must rise up to win the political battle at this fall’s election, a political campaign that Chamber CEO Tom Pierson predicted will be “a million dollar fight.” He said SEIU spent $1.2 million on the first minimum wage ballot measure in City of SeaTac last year, an amount he expects will be surpassed in Tacoma.

“I can’t survive this,” Monique Trudnowski, co-owner of Adriatic Grill restaurant, a business that employs dozens of employees. “It (her business success) will all go away” because of an estimated $200,000 increase in labor costs.

Bruce Lind, an executive at General Plastics, a Tacoma-based manufacturing firm, said the $15 rate will not impact his own payroll, since his union workforce earns more than that. “But it will hurt my suppliers (and) I worry about wage compression. When $15 an hour is the bottom, it will force the whole wage scale upward.”

El Gaucho restaurant chain co-owner Chad Mackay told the Chamber luncheon, “Tacoma has a better shot at defeating $15 Now than did Seattle because business interests here are paying attention.” 

Mackay also said threats by activists proponents to retaliate against businesses that speak out in opposition to the $15 Now Tacoma agenda should not scare them into acquiesce or compromise as happened in Seattle. “Don’t be afraid. They can’t attack everybody. Defeat the measure!” he urged.