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The Practical Employer

A $15 Minimum Wage is not Without Consequences

Those who bought into President-elect Trump’s populist message will be angry when they realize that their working-class interests do not fall in line with the administration’s fiscal policies.
Donald Trump’s presidency sparks an interesting dichotomy — a Republican that rode into office on a wave of populism, including fiscal populism. Officially, the President-elect favors a higher minimum wage: “On the minimum wage, Mr. Trump has voiced support for raising it to $10 at the federal level, but believes states should set the minimum wage as appropriate for their state.” WF_WebSite_BlogHeaders-11

Now, four years into their crusade, the movement’s leaders are signaling a determination to expand their reach beyond the urban working poor, who were among the chief beneficiaries of their earlier efforts. Among their new targets: working-class Americans frustrated by an economy that is no longer producing the middle-class jobs they or their parents once held.

Many of these workers voted for Donald J. Trump.

“A whole bunch of us out there are not doing well,” Scott Courtney, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union and one of the chief architects of the Fight for $15 campaign, said in an interview last week.

And, employers are fighting back. For example, take a gander at this op-ed from Fortune, penned by Ed Rensi, the former CEO of McDonald’s USA:

In 2013, when the Fight for $15 was still in its growth stage, I and others warned that union demands for a much higher minimum wage would force businesses with small profit margins to replace full-service employees with costly investments in self-service alternatives. At the time, labor groups accused business owners of crying wolf. It turns out the wolf was real. Earlier this month, McDonald’s announced the nationwide roll-out of touchscreen self-service kiosks. …

Of course, not all businesses have the capital necessary to shift from full-service to self-service … a $15 minimum wage would force many small businesses to lay off staff, seek less-costly locations or close altogether.

Facesof15.com catalogs the sad stories of dozens upon dozens of employers that have made the sad choice to raise prices, layoff staff, or even shut their doors because of higher state or local minimum wages.

And, in the meantime, “Fight for 15” protests continue nationwide, the latest just one week ago.

If you are faced with protests outside your business, there is not much you can do unless the protesters get out of hand or violent.

There are no easy answers to the problem of low-wage workers. And I believe those who bought into President-elect Trump’s populist message will be pissed when they realize that their working-class interests do not fall in line with the core of this administration’s fiscal policies.

In the meantime, understand that a $15 minimum wage has real consequences, and consider whether it’s better to have a job that pays $8 or $10 an hour versus no job at all.

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.

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