On this same topic of the minimum wage, however, we also have some Not Good News.
Last month, I mentioned that the city of Seattle had decided to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15/hour over the next seven years. Three weeks ago, I mentioned how just days after the law was enacted, a suit was filed on behalf of some large corporations saying the law is unconstitutional.
It turns out that there is a second effort underway to overturn that new law, this one by a group representing restaurants, merchants, and other businesses and bearing the typically-misleading name Forward Seattle. That group has been gathering signatures in attempting to get a ballot queston to revoke the law into the November election.
According to the group's leader, who insists this is a "principle-based fight," the group has submitted enough signatures to get the question on the ballot.
The signatures still need to be verified and based on prior general experience about the proportion of petition signatures that are thrown out, there is a question as to if they have enough, but they may well. And Seattle will have to fight the whole battle over again.
The simple reality is that you cannot try to do something that benefits the lowest-paid workers among us without getting major pushback. Too many powerful people, too many powerful forces, in our society benefit from the current arrangement.
It's notable, I think, that Forward Seattle Co-Chair Angela Cough ran out all the old "they're so powerful, we're so oppressed" lines the right wing seems to spout at the least opportunity. She claimed, for example, that her group is under-funded because members are being intimidated by opponents: They are are "simply too scared" to do more.
By the way, what was this horrible intimidation? According to Cough, it consisted of suggesting boycotts of businesses that support the attempt and making negative comments on Facebook and Yelp.
Oh, and Cough also claimed her group is not opposed to raising the minimum wage. Oh, no, it's that they object to the process by which the law was passed, to which her members offered alternatives. In other words, the city didn't do what the businesses wanted, so it's a matter of principle to get the whole thing thrown out. Which is likely true; you just have to think about what that principle is.
But like I said, you always have powerful voices saying no. You always have powerful voices telling the lowest-paid among us that they have it as good as it's going to get and they should be happy with what they have and don't dare try to make it better because you'll only make it worse.
The latest example of this is Andy Puzder, the head of CKE restaurants, the parent company of Hardees and Carl’s Jr., who says that minimum-wage workers - the kind his industry employs - would actually be hurt by an increase in their income because other people would start competing for their jobs, leading to more youth unemployment, higher prices, and increased automation. Omigod, it's too horrible to think about because, ya gotta understand, I'm just thinking of the little people, says the man who made $4.4 million in 2012, about 291 times what a minimum wage worker makes in a year, working full-time, year-round, at the federal minimum wage.
What's his solution? Quoting,
Government needs to get out of the way. If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs and wages will go up.That is, just let us do whatever we damn please and everything will be great. Not surprisingly considering the source, that is utter crap. Because on this score, the federal government has been staying out of the way. The federal minimum wage has not risen in five years and - as illustrated by the graph to the right - measured in 2014 dollars, that is, in actual purchasing power, it is below where it was in 1998. In fact, the highest purchasing power reached by the federal minimum wage came in 1968, 46 years ago, when it was, again measured in 2014 dollars, $10.86. Which means that even if Congress were to enact Obama's proposal of a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, it would still, in real terms, in purchasing power, be below where it was nearly 50 years earlier.
Andy Puzder? More like Andy Putz.
As a quick footnote, Putz's 2012 income of 291 times the federal minimum wage is low by industry standards. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2013 the average fast food CEO made 721 times what minimum wage workers made.
Sources cited in links: