Los Angeles Unions Want An Exemption From The Minimum Wage Law They Just Lobbied For

A minimum wage for thee, but not for me.

Minimum Wage

As I noted last week, the City of Los Angeles recently became the latest American city to adopt a minimum wage increase that will raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in a few years. Now, many of the unions that were behind the effort to raise the wage to begin with are lobbying for a change to the law that would exempt them from 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.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

The unions also contend that the change would bring the new law in line with federal labor laws and make it consistent with previous city ordinances on the issue. Leaving that issue aside for a moment, it strikes me that there’s a certain amount of hypocrisy in what Hicks is saying here. If he really believes in the idea that employers and employees should be able to negotiate an agreement that “works for them both,” then how exactly does he reconcile that with his support for a law that interferes with the ability of employers and employees to negotiate with each others? One assumes that he likely believes that people who are not represented by a union are too naive and stupid to be able to make decisions regarding the terms of their employment on their own, but the fact that the vast majority of American workers manage to do just that without relying on union representation at all would seem to put the lie to that. More likely, it’s the fact that the labor unions support the minimum wage law because it makes it harder for non-union employers to compete against businesses that have unionized work forces, something that benefits both the unionized employer and, of course, the union itself.

Beyond that, it is hard to think of any logical reason for the unions to support this exemption. Are they arguing that their employees should be able to work for less than minimum wage? What benefit does that give to unionized employees, exactly? Whatever the reason, though, it’s fairly clear that what the unions have done her is lobby for a law that everyone else will be forced to comply with, and now they are asking for an exemption for themselves. I’m not sure what Mr. Hicks calls it, but that’s called corruption in my book..

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Labor Unions, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    ne assumes that he likely believes that people who are not represented by a union are too naive and stupid to be able to make decisions regarding the terms of their employment on their own, but the fact that the vast majority of American workers manage to do just that without relying on union representation at all would seem to put the lie to that.

    Not too naive and stupid but utterly lacking any effective bargaining power.

    C’mon Doug, even if you disagree with that premise factually, you KNOW that is the basic philosophy behind union representation – collective bargaining.

  2. The Semi Dorkus says:

    Beyond that, it is hard to think of any logical reason for the unions to support this exemption.

    Oh, there’s a very logical reason for the unions to support this. You want to have wages lower than the new minimum? Its a huge incentive for business owners to allow their employees to unionize. Unions get new members and new source of dues revenues. They don’t care if it means lower wages; all they care about is the money they’re pulling in.

    BTW, the politicians will back it as much as they can for the same reason. More union dues means more union contributions and more unionized workers who are incentivized to canvas/vote for them.

  3. DrDaveT says:

    @The Semi Dorkus:

    They don’t care if it means lower wages; all they care about is the money they’re pulling in.

    More charitably, they might be pulling a clever “camel’s nose” tactic — get businesses to unionize as a way to pay lower wages, then collectively bargain a wage even higher than the new minimum at the next round.

    Either way, of course, there should be no exemption. If wages below $15/hr are not living wages, it doesn’t matter whether they were collectively bargained or not. Conversely, if there’s a wage below $15/hr that is a living wage, then the minimum was set too high.

  4. John H says:

    @The Semi Dorkus:

    I’m glad someone stated the obvious. I’m not anti-union, I think they’re necessary, but let’s not be naïve about the practicalities.

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    One assumes that he likely believes that people who are not represented by a union are too naive and stupid to be able to make decisions regarding the terms of their employment on their own, but the fact that the vast majority of American workers manage to do just that without relying on union representation at all would seem to put the lie to that.

    Oh, c’mon, that’s just a blatant misrepresentation, one which you know very well is false. You’re lying to your readers here. It’s not that people who aren’t represented by unions are “naive and stupid”, it’s that they lack all effective bargaining power and are at both a power and, usually, an information disparity relative to the employer.

    And, in fact, since average real wages have effectively remained flat over the last generation, it seems that the vast majority of American workers don’t, in fact, do a good job of extracting the full value of their compensation.

    But beat on that strawman, Doug! Knock ’em down good! Hey, if you can’t argue against reality, just make up your own!

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Unions want power over their members, just as employers want power over their employees. Giving members automatically more money decreases this power, just as it does for employers. I feel like anyone who has had a low-wage job/breathes regularly should know this.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    I’d like to know more about this…I can see, for instance, sacrificing some hourly wage in exchange for other benefits like insurance, vacations, family leave.

  8. humanoid.panda says:

    Actually, this is not some newfangled invention of American unions: in Germany and other North European countries, some sectors don’t have a minimum wage, because all employees in those sectors are unionized, and the employers are legally committed to bargain wages with their unions. I happen to think it’s an excellent idea, but the unions who are pursuing that idea here and now are making a tactical error by giving people like Doug an opening to attack them as “hypocrites.”

  9. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @The Semi Dorkus: Union member for 25 years (2 different unions). Never incentivized coerced, encouraged, or persuaded in any way to canvas or vote for anybody. In fact in one union setting, I offered a public argument against the union’s candidate for governor.

    But maybe, I’m just not a toady type.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @humanoid.panda: Not sure about Doug, but most of the people I know who are anti-union would attack them if they offered to build cars and teach kids free for a year.

    Like Michelle said, IIRC, about the BP spill, ‘If Barack walked on the water out to the well and with a wave of his hand shut off the leak and cleaned up the oil, the headline the next morning in the WSJ would be “Obama Can’t Swim”.’

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rafer Janders: Well said!
    @C. Clavin: Good point, and a much more interesting thought than the usual boilerplate from either side ( [ahem]…really Doug, everyone in America negotiates the terms of their employment? Really?)
    @humanoid.panda: Alas, many of the union leaders I have met were not the pointiest little tacks on the corkboard.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    One assumes that he likely believes that people who are not represented by a union are too naive and stupid to be able to make decisions regarding the terms of their employment on their own,

    What percentage of non-union employed American workers actually “make decisions regarding the terms of their employment” versus how many are just told “here’s what we’re paying you and here’s how how many hours you’re going to work, and if you don’t like it, tough”?

    About 1% to 99% seem about right?

  13. stonetools says:

    When a conservative argues against unions on behalf of workers, there’s usually a knife in the back of those workers ….

    There seems to be something funny about this, though, and the exemption should be denied unless the union can show some way that it can benefit the worker. I thinkC.Clavin might be on to something-the union can bargain for non-monetary benefits in return for a sub minimum wage. But I’d like that spelled out in detail.

  14. Charles Valnor says:

    ” companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.”

    There it is, folks. This was all nothing but a union recruitment drive.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve always wondered why so-called-conservatives/libertarians/Republicans hate unions so much? The contempt and ill-will just oozes from not just Doug and every other Republican out there, but why? If a company CEO negotiates a better deal for themself, the Repubs all cheer his entrepreneurial spirit, and never think twice about the alliances they have made in the executive street and boardroom to make sure the ‘yeses’ were there on the compensation committee. But how dare the little people band together to make a living wage?

    I’m not asking why they think it’s a bad idea (I don’t really care since Republicans are currently living in an alternate fact free universe). But where does the visceral hatred, the self righteous contempt come from?

  16. the Q says:

    Private unions YES, public unions NO.

    Here’s why. I live in the city of LA. Ten years ago, 4% of the city budget went to pension/benefits for retirees.

    This year, the city has 5000 LESS workers than it did 10 years ago, however 20% of the city budget goes to pension/benes.

    If we extrapolate, 10 years hence, 90% of the budget will go to just those two items. Forget, police, fire, street maintainence, etc. there will be no money, there will be no government services.

    Read about San Jose and their pension issues. Its frightening.

    The Dems are in complete denial about this time bomb as the Dems are beholden to union $$$$$. Look at Jerry Brown, his first bill signed gave a huge raise to the prison guard union.

    In Cali, we spend more on our state prisons than our college and university systems. Guards make over 100k with overtime. Next time you curse a CHP officer, know his salary is over 120k. Google it.

    The DWP car washer makes 60k a year. Public unions are destroying the city plain and simple.

    Just as the wingnuts sell their soul to capital, LA gov’t is Tammany Hall West, with unions the primary corrupting culprit. Note: 70% of the pensions go to 16% of the workers: police and firefighters. Tree trimmers, garbage folk, etc get an average pension of 25k, so its the “heroes” who are bankrupting the system.

    Unions here want the exception to force non union companies to unionize. Its a cheap, feckless power grab that Dems just won’t acknowledge.

    The wingnuts have lost their minds and the Dems have lost their souls.

  17. stonetools says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Conservatives hate unions because unions cost their corporate paymasters money. THE END.

  18. Labor Unions are great…..how else can a convicted child molester earn 80k pushing a broom at an electrical plant.

    How ironic the only support for labor unions these days are from small niche voiceless imbeciles with criminal minds…yes these same imbeciles think it’s just the conservatives/libertarians/Republicans who despise them…..LOL Labor Unions are great, so are the Bloods, the Crips, MS13 and Aaron Hernandez.

  19. @stonetools: You might want to educate yourself on the subject before posting…perhaps go and read the details of your presidents trade bill……adios labor unions….hello temp workers. Conservatives, conservatives , conservatives , blah blah blah….absolutely pathetic.

  20. @gVOR08: When, in actuality, Obama did nothing, and the media continued to act like he walks on water.

  21. @Rafer Janders: Are they forced to do the job?

  22. Tyrell says:

    Congress pulls the same stunt. They pass laws that we have to follow, but exempt themselves.

  23. wr says:

    @Richard Trumka: “Labor Unions are great…..how else can a convicted child molester earn 80k pushing a broom at an electrical plant.”

    Hey Bill,

    Nice to see you under a new name…

    So, how much should a convicted child molester earn for working as a janitor? Do you have a sliding pay scale depending on the age of the child?

    Or do you just hate all people who work for a living, and you use this as a strawman argument?

  24. @wr: Hey pal your beloved Labor Union is nadda, nothing but an extension of Washington D.C corruption……funny how that just rubs people the wrong way…especially the working class who stands on the sides while the organized scum throws a public tantrum in the name of “equality”…pft….get a clue.

  25. @Tyrell: Exempting themselves and their staff from insider trading is a good example of that but still…just because the snake is guilty of it does not mean the rat shall do the same.

  26. bill says:

    let’s enhance that quote a bit!

    One assumes that he likely believes that people who are not represented by a union “liberals” are too naive and stupid to be able to make decisions regarding the terms of their employment ability to vote on their own,

    @C. Clavin: of course you would- it sucks when you get what you wish for sometimes. some people actually “think” this stuff through before they decide to just vote for their own wallet. reminds me of just how educated the “voters” were in venezuela……and how their lives are so wonderful these days.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    Thanks to all the so-called-conservative commentators for demonstrating my point so wonderfully: when it comes to unions it drives you to incoherent contempt and hatred. It’s not that you consider them bad, I assume there are lots of things you consider bad. Many, if not most, we would agree on (I mean c’mon, does anyone think the Designated Hitter rule is a good thing?). But you don’t fly into spittle spewing vindictive when you find out that, say, an exec has run a company into the ground and pocketed millions in the process. What is it about the little guy doing something you think is bad that fills you with such rage? Could it be that they are “acting above themselves” as my grandmother used to say?

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    It’s almost as if the labor unions fear that a higher minimum wage might cost them some jobs. Funny that. The entire point of this maneuver, from the unions’ perspective, was to raise union wages that are pegged to the minimum wage or compared to it in arbitration. Now they want to exempt themselves from the downside.

    But you don’t fly into spittle spewing vindictive when you find out that, say, an exec has run a company into the ground and pocketed millions in the process.

    Many of us do. I’ve been waiting for some justice to be delivered on those who caused the financial crisis. Still waiting.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Could it be that they are “acting above themselves”

    Yes, it certainly could. Going back to the beginning, Burke’s objection to democracy came down to an aversion to “candle makers and hairdressers” having any voice in affairs.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: Also, conservatives, including libertarians, are basically kiss up, kick down kind of people. You’ll have noticed that libertarians only seem to want “liberty” for people they identify with, the lunch counter owner, not the black potential customer.

    People like “Richard Trumka” regard union members as beneath them, and therefore deserving of nothing but contempt and abuse.

    I’d always wondered why conservatives so ardently support a hierarchy in which they’ll never be anywhere near the top. Corey Robin answered my question. The important thing is not who’s above them, but that there be someone below them.

  31. Stonetools says:

    @MarkedMan:
    It’s astonishing, really, how conservatives and their minions erupt in fury at the very idea of common people organizing to challenge the rich and the powerful. When ordinary people band together to challenge a game rigged in favor of the rich and powerful -well , that’s the REAL corruption. Why, the very idea that the common people shouldn’t just be satisfied with the crumbs from the rich people’s table-why, that idea in itself is a crime against the natural order, whether that’s interpreted as Gods law or an even more jealous god, the free market.

  32. Stonetools says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Er, guess what? The biggest union haters are also the biggest coddlers of the banksters and of the Rich and the powerful. Note that Doug or libertarian bloggers in general NEVER call for justice against the banksters. There’s a reason for that-they are on their side! Time for you to recognize reality.

  33. J-Dub says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    “here’s what we’re paying you and here’s how how many hours you’re going to work, and if you don’t like it, tough”?

    I was in the enviable position a while back to dictate the terms to prospective employers. It was an enlightening experience to be interviewing prospective employers rather than the other way around. “No, what can YOU do for ME? Well, that’s not quite good enough, now is it?”

    Doug seems to think that everyone is in this position, although as you stated this is quite rare. I wish everyone could be in that position, at least once in their life. But that’s not realistic, and that’s where collective bargaining is the next best thing.

    It’s all about leverage, and who has it. I think things are better when the workers have it. It’s probably cyclical and people now might realize that today’s inequities can be re-balanced through increased unionization.

  34. Gavrilo says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    What percentage of non-union employed American workers actually “make decisions regarding the terms of their employment” versus how many are just told “here’s what we’re paying you and here’s how how many hours you’re going to work, and if you don’t like it, tough”?

    You clearly have a misunderstanding of the collective bargaining process. I supervise AFSCME members, and I used to be in the union when I was a rank and file employee. Because of the collective bargaining agreement, there is zero flexibility regarding the terms of employment. I can’t give merit raises to the more productive employees. Their salary is completely determined by their length of employment. I can’t offer a flexible work schedule that meets the needs of individual employees. Their work hours are set in the CBA. Let’s say I have an employee who wants to work through lunch and take off an hour early to go watch her kid’s lacrosse game. I can’t allow that. She has to use her vacation or sick time. Otherwise, one of her coworkers will file a grievance. Collective bargaining is extremely restrictive. Non-union employees have way more say in their terms of employment than union employees.

  35. J-Dub says:

    @Gavrilo: Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that the contract is extremely restrictive? Collective bargaining is the process, not the outcome. Maybe the process is broken and is producing an outcome that is not in the best interest of the union members.

    Don’t the union members, through their representatives, decide whether to bargain for compensation that is merit based or seniority based? I assume the employer would prefer merit based so that the best employees are compensated properly and others are incentivized to perform at a higher level. That would mean that the union is the one that is pushing for seniority based compensation. I’m not sure how that is in their best interest. You seem to have the experience, can you explain it?

  36. Really what is wrong with you union’ers on this thread? Are you so dumb, so inbred, so inept you cannot see it’s not just conservatives who despise you pukes? I see idiotic comment after comment bashing conservatives…..you morons should soon realize you are hated from all walks of life. I don’t like conservatives at all but I have a deep seated hatred for vote whores i.e union trash.

  37. J-Dub says:

    I was hoping for an informative reply from Gavrilo, instead I get Trumka.