A new study, writes Erin Shannon, finds that higher minimum wages are associated with less sanitary restaurants:
“The study, conducted by economics professors from Indiana University, Ball State University, and Villanova University, found each dollar increase in the minimum wage resulted in a 6.4% increase in overall health violations, with a 7.3% increase in critical ‘red’ violations and a 15.3% increase in less severe ‘blue’ violations in the city’s restaurants.
“‘Red’ violations are high risk factors that could lead to dangerous food borne illness, such as contamination by hands, cross contamination among food items, improper handling of chemicals used in food preparation and noncompliance with approved procedures. These are the kinds of violations that could cause salmonella or E. coli breakouts which sometimes kill or hospitalize people.
“‘Blue’ violations are lower-risk factors that encompass things like improper food temperature control, inadequate maintenance of physical facilities (such as garbage disposal, toilet cleanliness, etc.) and evidence of food contamination from rodents and insects, employee hygiene and other sanitary conditions. These violations likely won’t send anyone to the hospital, but they could result in a nasty case of food poisoning. At the very least they are just plain gross.
“The indisputable fact is employers will always figure out ways to economize on artificially high-priced labor. That is basic economics. It is especially true in the restaurant industry, where the average profit margin is just 4%. In the case of Seattle, it has already been established one way employers have economized has been to reduce the number of employees or the number of hours those employees work.
“If those work-force reductions aren’t paired with a reduction in services (for example, a restaurant reducing the hours it is open), then something has to give. In the case of Seattle’s restaurants, that something seems to be cleanliness and hygiene.” [Washington Policy Center]