Does the Democratic Platform Ignore Union Hypocrisy?
This week, the Democratic Party released their proposed 2016 platform, which includes the adoption of a $15 minimum wage — despite the fact that Hillary Clinton has admitted her concerns it will cost the economy jobs. Sounds like a big win for unions, who have been pushing for a higher minimum wage for years, right? As they applaud the inclusion of this platform commitment, however, the benefits for Big Labor may backfire.
It appears that this platform plank would nullify a number of exemptions and carve-outs unions negotiated for themselves at the state and local levels. Few realize this, but many U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Long Beach, San Jose, Milwaukee and Chicago, exempt organized labor from their minimum wage mandates. That’s right — for years, labor leaders have brokered backroom deals to be granted exemptions, undermining the same minimum wage policies that they have spent tens of millions of dollars to publicly support. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the full list of exemptions, here.
The existence of these escape clauses prove what many in the free-market movement have said all along: Big Labor bosses don’t care about American workers, they only care about themselves and their bottom line. In abject hypocrisy, unions’ national push for what they deem a “fair wage” does not include that wage for their own members.
A step ahead of the game, organized labor has used the push for higher wages as a manipulation tool. All around the country, they encourage non-unionized workplaces to agree to union representation by presenting themselves as a lower cost labor option to hotel-owners, fast food chains, and hospitals. They argue that, with their secured exemptions, employers can pay their unionized employees less, making unionization seem more appealing.
For example, in Los Angeles, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — which just endorsed Hillary Clinton for president — spent millions campaigning for a $15 wage, and then asked the city council to exempt union shops from the new law. Already in Los Angeles hotels, there remains inequity between the minimum wages of unionized and non-unionized hotel workers — indeed, at the Sheraton Universal hotel, unionized employees only make $10 an hour, far less than the city’s $15.37 minimum wage for hotel workers. They’ve got unions to thank for making 50 percent less than their counterparts at the Hilton next door.
It’s evident Big Labor’s push to increase the minimum wage is not about providing workers a so-called “living wage,” but is, rather, a coordinated, disguised effort to boost union membership — putting them in an easier position to organize the workplace with the owners’ blessing. This is one of the last bargaining chips union bosses have to combat their drastically declining membership, as workers realize unions sell an outdated product few want or need, anymore.
Perhaps the Democratic Party is starting to catch on. While I do believe a $15 minimum wage will be a disaster for our economy — costing nationally between three million and five million jobs, by conservative estimates — I can appreciate that their platform may finally be calling foul on union hypocrisy. So next time you hear union protestors chant: “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” remind them that they may not be getting “fairness” at all.
Heather Greenaway is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).