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Editorials

Minimum-wage fallout: Bon appétit?

| Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Pittsburgh is among the 'rattiest' cities in the U.S., according to Orkin.
Pittsburgh is among the 'rattiest' cities in the U.S., according to Orkin.

As minimum wages went up in Seattle — not by market forces but by government diktat — basic hygiene practices at some restaurants reportedly went down, based on health-code violations.

A new study by a Ball State University research assistant professor and his co-authors found that a $1 increase in the minimum wage corresponded with a 6.4-percent increase in restaurant health violations, according to NPR. Since Seattle's King County maintains detailed inspection records, researchers were able to track health violations with corresponding increases in the minimum wage, which in Seattle went from $8 an hour in 2010 to $15 an hour this year.

Researchers did not find increases in serious risk factors, which can shut down an eatery. Instead, the increased violations covered such things as the presence of insects and rodents, employees' cleanliness and hygiene, and garbage disposal.

Naturally the advocates of artificially inflated wages suggest that any trend in health violations might be nothing more than a blip. Or they suggest that health agencies should simply increase inspections to compel compliance — and fix the latest government wage fix. Never mind a University of Washington study earlier this year that showed the mandatory wage increase reduced jobs for low-income workers.

What's revealed, once again, is that economic tinkering, however well-intentioned, does not occur in a vacuum. And in this case the result can be quite unappetizing.

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