Big Labor Tries (and Fails) to Dismiss the Consequences of $15

Advocates for a dramatically-higher minimum wage–in cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland–have come face to face with an embarrassing downside for their movement: Unflattering press coverage.

Past increases in the minimum wage were often in the range of a dollar or less, phased in over a number of years. That’s enough to result in some job losses, but typically not enough to generate massive, business-altering changes. However with new minimum wage levels that are phasing up to $15 an hour, or with a wage law that includes an overnight jump of close to 40 percent, the potential for unintended consequences for employees is much more serious.

We’ve chronicled many of these press stories at a website called Faces of $15, which we launched earlier this year. The site pulls from first-hand interviews or third-party news sources to document the real consequences–dramatic price hikes, lost jobs, and even closed doors–of these minimum wage increases. Importantly, the site offers no editorial comment on each business owners’ personal feelings on wage hikes.

Despite this hard evidence, Big Labor and its allies are doing what they do best: Equivocating, making stuff up, and otherwise hiding the ball from the public about consequential evidence of minimum wage harm.

The latest example comes from the Madison, WI-based Center for Media & Democracy (CMD). CMD, which can always be relied on to parrot the talking points of its labor union donors, is best-known for its hypocrisy: In 2013, CMD was caught accepting six-figure anonymous donations after railing against the same donation practice by groups on the political right.

In a new blog post on its PR Watch website, CMD tries to poke holes in the stories on the Faces of $15 project. Evidently, they couldn’t find many holes to poke: Of the nearly thirty stories on the website, only a handful made it into CMD’s write-up. Even in the stories it highlights, CMD’s “smoking guns” turn out to be water pistols.

For instance, a Seattle restaurant called The Walrus and the Carpenter responded to the city’s dramatic wage mandate by eliminating tips and replacing them with a steep service fee on the bill. The move was newsworthy enough that Seattle Eater reported on it, so we noted this dramatic change on the Faces of $15 website. CMD subsequently called the restaurant, found out that the owners support the city’s higher wage policy, and tried to call “gotcha” on our Faces project.

CMD needs to try harder. Our website reported the facts via Eater–nothing more, nothing less–and CMD’s stunt did nothing to change that. The owners of that restaurant might support a wage mandate that forces them to eliminate tips, but survey data shows that most tipped employees do not support this change.

CMD’s other criticisms are equally vacuous. They dismiss the story of one pizza business that closed explicitly as a consequence of Seattle’s wage mandate by noting that another pizza business is moving in behind it. Unmentioned in CMD’s write-up: This new business is subject to a very different wage structure than the closed one that it’s replacing.

CMD’s write-up failed to make a splash, and it’s not hard to figure out why: When business owners explicitly finger the minimum wage as a factor in their decision to raise prices, cut jobs, or close, not even well-crafted, union-funded spin can obscure this inconvenient truth.