The Minimum Wage as a Weapon

by Yuval Levin

Advocates of large minimum-wage increases generally argue, and so presumably believe, that those increases wouldn’t meaningfully hurt workers earning the minimum wage — either by costing them their jobs or putting their employers out of business. It would be hard to argue for such increases if you thought they’d endanger the workers involved, after all. But in Los Angeles, where the city council last week agreed to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years, the labor unions that energetically championed the increase are trying out a rather different argument. Here’s how the L.A. Times describes it:

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

I have a soft spot for sheer chutzpah, I must admit, but this is just amazing. Apparently one of the benefits of joining unions now is that they can negotiate lower wages for you, and can use the threat of unreasonable minimum-wage laws to pressure non-unionized employers to unionize. A perfect parody of liberal governance.

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