Business adds 'living wage surcharge' after minimum wage hike

Business adds 'living wage surcharge' after minimum wage hike »Play Video
SEATAC, Wash. -- A locally-owned parking business is adding an unusual charge that customers are just starting to notice.

On every receipt from Masterpark, in between the "airport access fee" and the "sales tax," is a line that reads "Living Wage Surcharge." The company is tacking on an additional 99-cents per day fee now that the law requires paying employees at least $15 an hour.

"This is one way of business owners getting back at the public and passing on their costs," said Eric Colville, who has left his car at Masterpark in the past.

He was surprised to see the surcharge spelled out on a paper receipt.

"They park thousands of cars a day. I just really don't see that being totally spread out among all the employees," said Colville. "I'm sure that they're going to end up making a pretty good profit from this under the guise of living wage."

Masterpark is one of the SeaTac businesses that falls under the city's $15 minimum wage law voters narrowly passed last November. The measure went into effect in January.

The managers at Masterpark did not respond to our request for an interview, but the research director at the Washington Policy Center offered an analysis.

"I can see that a customer would say, oh you're showing me this cost just because you don't like the higher minimum wage," said Paul Guppy, research director of the independent, non-profit think tank. "I just think that Masterpark is trying to be transparent. They face a problem with having to raise prices, but they want customers to know why."

Washington Policy Center says it is non-partisan, but takes a more conservative, business-friendly approach when studying and taking positions on policy issues.

"I don't think they want to be blamed for just cranking up their prices for no reason," Guppy added. "So they want to be able to show the city of SeaTac changed the law, we are adjusting to the law, this is how much it will cost and we just want to show that."

Masterpark's website has the following under its "rates and reservations" page:

"MasterPark charges, taxes, and fees include a 'Living Wage' surcharge of 99 cents per day. This is due to the new $15 per hour minimum wage requirement for certain businesses in SeaTac. The surcharge covers a portion of the resulting increase in operating costs."

Guppy of the Washington Policy Center predicts some businesses in Seattle will experiment with printing a living wage surcharge on their receipts as the city enacts its new $15 minimum wage law.