- - Friday, September 5, 2014

It was no surprise to me that protesters were at the Taco Bell in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday calling for a higher minimum wage – $15 an hour – and the right to form a union. These so-called “strikes” have become the norm across the country over the last couple years, but many people still fail to understand what would happen if the minimum wage were increased and what is driving these protests.

Simple economics shows that raising the cost of something causes less of it to be purchased. It is the same with the cost of labor. If an arbitrary wage increase requires businesses to pay workers more, multiple things could happen.

First, prices would likely go up. The easiest way to combat higher costs of production is to charge customers more. Business owners will quickly run into a problem, however. When prices go up, people buy less, and suddenly fewer workers are needed to meet the demand of a product.

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Another thing that could happen is automation. We see this everywhere thanks to technological innovations. Don’t have time to go to the bank, just stop by an ATM. Don’t have time to call in the order for pizza on Friday night, just order online. The same would be true in the fast food industry. Instead of telling a worker what I want to order, I could just as easily type it in on a computer at the counter. This would also lead to fewer needed workers.

Even if businesses decide not to increase prices for fear of reducing demand or refuse to use computerized automation, they still need to make up the cost difference. So, they may just cut the amount of employees and ask that the few remaining staff pick up the slack.

In every situation, this results in fewer jobs. In fact, a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the U.S. would stand to lose half a million jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour.

I can only imagine what would happen if the wage jumped all the way to $15. Even more people would be left looking for a job and fewer young workers would have the opportunity to get their foot in the door and gain valuable experience for later in life.

We can’t forget the other portion of the protests, though. Outside of fast food restaurants on Thursday, they chanted, “15 and a union.” The second part is the main reason the SEIU and other unions have funneled millions of dollars to support these strikes.

The unions simply want more members. More members mean more money to line the union bosses’ pockets. So, you see, it is not about helping workers. If it were about improving the lives of hard-working families, the unions would be supporting pro-growth policies that helped businesses expand and create more, higher-paying jobs.

But instead, they just want to collect more union dues.

The unions and their friends are willing to go so far that they actually encouraged workers to try and get arrested. This is such a low tactic that is simply unacceptable. In Wisconsin, things went a step further, however, when Rep. Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democrat, purposefully was arrested after joining a protest that was blocking a street on the west side of Milwaukee.

A congresswoman trying to be arrested simply for a photo-op showing her support for the unions is embarrassing to the district she represents.

I think we should have an open conversation about how we can help small businesses expand and create more jobs for everyone. Not a one-sided stunt aimed at helping the union bosses and politicians at the top.

For now, I will continue to support the workers that stayed on the job during the protests by grabbing lunch at my local fast food franchise.

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