Emails show Seattle mayor worked to undermine $15 minimum wage study

Emails between the Seattle mayor's office and an economist at the University of California, Berkeley show that the mayor's staff tried to deliberately undermine a University of Washington study showing that the city's $15 minimum wage ordinance was harming the city's low-income workers.

The emails show the staff went to great lengths to publicize the Berkeley economist's report and downplay the other report's findings.

"Tomorrow's release will just highlight your study, correct (ie leave the critique of the UW study until later)? Don't want your positive news to serve as a teaser for the UW study," wrote Carlo Caldirola-Davis, senior adviser to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a July 19 email to Berkeley economist Michael Reich. The emails were first reported by the Seattle Weekly, which obtained them through a public disclosure request.

Reich's report, released June 20, touted the economic benefits of the city's increase of the minimum wage to $13 an hour in 2016, up from $9.32 in 2013 and part of a scheduled phase-in to $15 by 2018. "Seattle's minimum wage law is working as intended, raising pay for low-wage workers, without negatively affecting jobs," Reich said. His study made no mention of the then-forthcoming University of Washington study, despite Reich having been given an advance copy of it by the university's economists.

The University of Washington study was released June 26 as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. For advocates of a $15 minimum wage, it was a rude shock, finding that the increase to $13 had sharply reduced wealth among low-wage workers because of job losses and reductions in hours worked. Businesses used both methods to mitigate the sharp increase in labor costs they faced.

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