Vice President, Labor Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 31, 2017
The Fight for $15 appears to be getting ready for a new round of protests demanding an inflated minimum wage of $15 this Labor Day. The protests are being billed as the “Workers Strike Back” as part of a push to elect politicians willing to enact organized labor’s economically dubious agenda.
Unlike many of the protests launched by the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight for $15 in recent years, organizers did not make lofty promises of nationwide protests in hundreds of cities. In fact, this round appears limited to Chicago and perhaps a few other locations in the Midwest.
The limited scope of the Fight for $15’s efforts comes as little surprise, and this marks one of only two protests the group has held this year. This reduced pace is likely due to the fact that the SEIU announced steep budget cuts late last year. Of course, that seemed to be the prudent thing to do after dumping tens of millions of dollars into the Fight for $15 without having garnered many, if any, new members.
For this year’s Labor Day protests, the Fight for $15 enlisted the assistance of Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator and former presidential candidate from Vermont, who echoed the call for an inflated minimum wage of $15. Unfortunately for the good senator and the Fight for $15, the economic evidence related to such an increase does not paint an encouraging picture.
Indeed, the city of Seattle in 2015 enacted a gradual minimum wage increase to $15, and after two years the minimum wage there now is $13. To its credit, the city decided to commission an independent academic analysis of what the higher minimum wage has done for the city’s workers, but the most recent report came back with a predictable conclusion: the higher minimum wage is actually eating into low-wage workers’ take-home pay.
As this blog noted recently, the report found that “low wage workers lost $3 from lost employment opportunities for every $1 they gain[ed] due to higher hourly wages.” The report also concluded that the net effect of the higher minimum wage for low wage workers was a decrease of 6.6% in wages per month, or $125, and a significant reduction of hours worked averaging 9.4%.
Perhaps that economic reality accounts for the SEIU’s own good-for-thee-but-not-for-me philosophy of not paying its own organizers a minimum wage of $15, something this blog chronicled last year. If the Fight for $15’s own organizers are to be believed, they earn as little as $9.10 per hour and have no union representation of their own because the SEIU uses third party organizations to avoid having to negotiate their wages. In fact, that impelled Fight for $15 organizers to protest SEIU President Mary Kay Henry at the group’s “convention” in Richmond, Va.
As Labor Day approaches, the Fight for $15 is sticking to its mantra of an inflated minimum wage and a union. For the SEIU, it must be concerning that neither slogan appears to be working.
Update: According to news coverage of the protests, the Fight for $15 claimed that there were “strikes” in over 400 cities on Labor Day. However, actual protest activity appears to have been limited to a handful of major metropolitan areas.