Franchising is far more than just fast food. In trying to argue that Seattle franchises are not small businesses, Seattle Council Member Kshama Sawant points to a “Good Jobs Seattle” study that only examines ownership of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. But what Council member Sawant fails to realize is that the franchise industry is made up of 100 business lines as diverse as hotel, real estate, and tax preparation services, which offer entrepreneurs opportunities to start and grow their own business at all levels of investment.
Some franchise owners are small with only one or a few franchise units and – yes – certainly some are larger. However, to classify all of Seattle’s franchise businesses, which provide 19,000 jobs to the Seattle area, as large corporations would misrepresent the many single and multi-unit owners in the city that face the exact same challenges as Seattle’s other small businesses.
What’s more, by equating all franchises to large corporations, as Sawant argues, franchise businesses would be at a disadvantage to other small businesses in Seattle. Under Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal, businesses with fewer than 500 employees would have seven years to adjust to the new $15 minimum wage, while large businesses and “all franchises associated with a franchisor” – regardless of employee count – would be forced to do so in just 3 years. For some franchisees, this amounts to labor costs 50 percent higher than their non-franchised competitors.
As Seattle Council members debate a “fair” minimum wage for Seattleites, let’s not forget that the employers paying these higher wage should be treated fairly as well. Rather than picking winners and losers among business owners operating under different models, wage increases should be applied equitably to all of Seattle’s employers.
This piece of the proposal is discrimination against Seattle’s small businesses at its worst. Small business owners should not be punished for choosing to be part of a larger “name brand”. All small businesses, like Seattle’s franchisees, should be celebrated for their sense of entrepreneurship, passion and motivation. Don’t frame franchisees for building their small business using a proven model to provide a service to Seattle’s citizens.
Tell the City Council and Mayor Murray that Seattle franchisees own the store, not the chain. Franchises don’t want special treatment, just the same as others.