An interesting dynamic in the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in a number of U.S. jurisdictions has been labor unions’ efforts to exempt their members from the minimum wage requirement—an attempt to build a price advantage for union (as opposed to non-inion) labor into local law. Here, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor seeks to embed a union exception into a minimum wage proposal before the Santa Monica, California city council. These strategic moves by union labor invite us to reconsider the ethical and economic rationales for dramatic minimum wage increases. If such increases are expressions of the (vague) idea that all workers ought to be paid “living” wages, then why, exactly, ought union workers be subjected to the prospect of being paid a sub-living wage? Alternatively, if, as LACFL head Rusty Hicks argues, “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing,” why, exactly, should this “good thing” be denied by law to non-union workers? >>>
LINK: California Labor Union That Fought for $15 Minimum Wage Now Wants an Exemption (by Natalie Johnson for Daily Signal)
The labor union that led the charge for a $15 minimum wage hike in cities across California is now moving to secure an exemption for employers under union contracts.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor buried the exemption on the eighth page of its 12-page proposal for the Santa Monica City Council to review Tuesday while deciding whether to follow Los Angeles and increase the minimum wage.
“This is hypocrisy at its worst,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in a blistering editorial. “It plays into the cynical view that the federation is more interested in unionizing companies and boosting its rolls of dues-paying members than in helping poor workers.”
What do you think?
I have doubts about the wisdom and optics of the exemption myself. However, I would not describe it as a means to provide union labor with a price advantage. Collective bargaining will almost inevitably lead to a more expensive package of wages and benefits. The union may well seek health care and other benefits and accept in exchange a slightly lower starting wage than $15. Service sector enterprises have received a substantial subsidy in the last few decades as the legal minimum has failed to keep pace with inflation. Additionally, sector workers are generally lacking in benefits. As they are ordinary humans with families, they get sick too.
How about “apparent” price advantage?
Or price advantage at first glance, contradicted by observed gains in wages AND benefits in the unionized sector. Of course, the reduced turnover and enhanced employee commitment that some observers have found in association with unionism may actually reduce total labor costs. This is what Eileen Appelbaum and Rose Batt discovered at Wal-Mart vs. CostCo.