Last month’s first inaugural Fight for $15 convention in Richmond, Va., was overshadowed by the movement’s own internal fight. Organizers behind the nationwide campaign demanded a union for themselves and in some cases a $15 minimum wage.
The irony is obviously funny. As the line goes: “You can’t make this stuff up.” This is only the latest example of classic liberal hypocrisy, i.e., do as I say, not as I do.
Perhaps nowhere is this hypocrisy more evident than when it comes to unionization and the minimum wage. As reported by the pro-union website In These Times, a group of union members at the convention tried to present Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry with a letter requesting unionization but were turned away by security. “We don’t have the right to join a union that we’re fighting for other workers to have,” said one employee.
When eventually confronted, the SEIU tried to claim that it is not the direct employer of the activists, initially using the preposterous argument that their employer is their payroll processing firm. Now, it has shifted to claiming that the employer is the individual organizing committee franchise that directs each city’s Fight for $15 campaign.
Wait, that’s the major fast food argument for not recognizing a brand-wide union. The SEIU has long derided this reasoning and supports the National Labor Relations Board’s recent “joint employer” ruling that suggests corporate parents are also employers of their franchisees’ employees — something that would make union drives much easier. But while franchisees finance their own business and only pay a small royalty fee to their franchisor for the rights to use their products and likeness, almost all of the funding for Fight for $15 committees comes from the SEIU.
Fight for $15 protesters argue that they need a union to protect against abusive scheduling, highlighting the SEIU’s tendency to ramp up staffing for one campaign, then use only some staff for the next initiative. But at the same time, the SEIU is pushing for “fair scheduling” mandates in cities across the country. These requirements limit employers ability to make last-minute staffing decisions to adjust to changes in consumer traffic — something that sounds pretty similar to what the SEIU is doing with their needs for flexibility on staffing assignments.
Some Fight for $15 activists also point out that they get paid less than $15 an hour and often work more than 40 hours a week. Besides the obvious hypocrisy here, this is also notable because labor unions have been a chief instigator in getting a new overtime rule passed that starting in December will require such salaried employees to receive time-and-a-half pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a week — a benefit being denied the Fight for $15 “nonemployee” protesters.
Want more egregious examples of liberal hypocrisy on wages? Perhaps the most blatant is when unions demand dramatic, legislated starter wage increases, then turn around at the last minute and negotiate statutory exemptions for employees they have unionized. The idea seems counterintuitive until you realize it’s a new selling point to “persuade” employers to sell unionization to their own employees. The net result is the union gets more dues-paying members and employers get exempted from the new higher rates forced on non-union employer competitors.
The Employment Policies Institute (a group I manage) has also highlighted how the vast majority of members of Congress who support a minimum wage increase don’t pay their interns. At last count, 94 percent of the Democratic co-sponsors of the bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour did not pay their interns the minimum wage. In fact, they paid them zero in return for the opportunity to run errands and answer phones.
Same story among private-sector liberals. Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist and member of a self-righteous group called the Patriotic Millionaires, has been a leading advocate of a $15 minimum wage and has indicated it should be $28. Yet his family business, Pacific Coast Feather, where he serves as chairman, has paid its employees as low as $7.50 an hour. When confronted with this hypocrisy, Mr. Hanauer responded, “Make me raise wages by raising the minimum wage.” Seems lame that a big-shot businessman needs government help in giving pay raises to his employees.
Logic, good academic research and reality have long proved that liberal policies don’t work. But nothing drives this point home better than watching the left’s facial contortions as they talk out of both sides of their mouths.
• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.