Minimum Wage Hike Challenged In Seattle

The effort to raise the minimum wage in Seattle by a staggering 60 percent – from the current $9.32 an hour to $15 an hour – over the next several years is being challenged by a local business group, Forward Seattle, which represents a number of restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses in the Seattle area.

Passed by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Ed Murray, the minimum wage hike was never voted on by Seattle residents.  The proposal has since garnered its fair share of criticism from the Seattle business community.  Forward Seattle, by handing in “just under 20,000 signatures to the Seattle City Clerk” last week, is seeking to put the matter up to a vote – and it’s looking like that’s exactly what will happen in November.

Citing concerns that the measure would encourage businesses to “move from Seattle or halt expansions,” Forward Seattle co-chair Angela Cough said, “Right now, the (city) ordinance on the table we think is going to be pretty damaging to the city from the business perspective, and from the workers’ perspective.”

Cough certainly has good reason to think a forced minimum wage hike would be bad for Seattle businesses and workers.  As we’ve previously mentioned, even a smaller minimum wage hike than what Seattle has planned could force business owners to freeze hiring, lay off employees or even shutter operations.

This isn’t even the only attempt to stop the disastrous wage hike plan in Seattle.  Separately, the International Franchise Association also “filed a federal lawsuit last month that alleges the measure illegally discriminates against franchises because it would force them to pay employees $15 an hour within three years while other business owners would have more time.”

Now that it appears Forward Seattle has submitted more than enough signatures required to put forth a ballot measure repealing the minimum wage hike, it will be interesting to see how voters respond in November.

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Congress Fights For Workers’ Privacy

Last week, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee introduced legislation in the Senate that would “prevent the National Labor Relations Board from implementing a rule requiring businesses to turn over employees’ personal phone numbers and email addresses during union organizing drives.”

Not surprisingly, Big Labor has been hoping the NLRB would pass such a measure to allow them greater access to workers for the purposes of forcibly organizing them for a long time now.  In fact, if they got their way, union bosses would be able to contact, harass and/or coerce workers at home, by phone or email.

While Big Labor cries foul, saying it is “unfair of businesses not to allow them contact with the workers” (because apparently knowing their names and home addresses are not enough), businesses have been quick to point out that turning over employees’ phone numbers and email addresses “violates worker privacy.”

In introducing this legislation, Senator Alexander is taking a stand to protect worker privacy by attempting to rein in the “far too politicized” agency.

After previously attempting to introduce such a rule in 2011, a federal court struck it down the next year citing a “lack of proper quorum at the time the rule was adopted.” That won’t be the case this time as the board currently has all five seats filled.

As always, we’ll be keeping our eye on this issue and will keep you updated as more details unfold.

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“Worker Centers” Are The New Big Labor

We’ve talked about worker centers before.  They’re the Big Labor-funded “charitable organizations” that take the fight to force unionization on American companies and workers one, two or in some cases several steps further than unions are legally allowed.

Well, now according to analysis from the Workforce Freedom Initiative – a pro-workers’ rights group formed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Big Labor is pumping big money into worker centers.

Does this come as any surprise?  No.  But that doesn’t make it any less reprehensible.  According to the analysis, in 2013 alone, union bosses “pumped nearly $35 million” into these so-called worker centers, which “have skirted federal labor laws.”

One of the most notorious worker centers is the group Fast Food Workers Committee, which “received more than $1.8 million from the SEIU” in exchange for staging protests at McDonald’s and other national fast food chains last year.

As union membership has dropped dramatically in recent years, union bosses have invested even more in worker centers.  Perhaps that’s why “AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka called worker centers the ‘future of unions’ at the labor giant’s annual conference in September.

If worker centers truly are the “future of unions,” then it’s time our government take another look at them to ensure they follow the same rules and regulations as traditional labor unions are supposed to.

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A Tale of Two Editors: Sparring over the Minimum Wage Fight

On June 8, Wall Street Journal opinion editor Paul Gigot faced off against The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel on ABC News’ “This Week” program (check out the video)…

During the debate, vanden Heuvel—a strong supporter of a job-killing minimum wage hike—made four big claims, all of which are dead wrong.

Claim 1: Only one out of 10 minimum wage workers are teens or young people (i.e., most people working for minimum wage are adults, with all the financial responsibilities that entails).

The Truth: According to Politifact.com (based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), “workers who are 16 to 24 years old comprise 50 percent of workers who earn at or below the federal minimum wage.”  vanden Heuvel “was wrongly describing a study of who would get a raise from increasing the minimum wage.  According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, teens would make up 12.5 percent of people who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10.  We rate her claim False.

Claim 2: Better paid minimum wage workers create growth.

The Truth: According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if a $10.10 minimum wage were to be fully implemented in the second half of 2016, it “would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent.”  And “as with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers.”  If employment drops by half-a-million to a million workers, how will this benefit growth?

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Claim 3: Walmart employs the most low-wage wage workers.

The Truth: The average full-time hourly wage for a Walmart associate is $12.81 per hour, and less than one-half of 1% of associates earn minimum wage.

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Claim 4: The current minimum wage is about the values of this country (i.e., not raising the minimum wage is antithetical to our values).

The Truth: Besides being totally subjective (and intellectually wishy-washy), this isn’t even true.  If employment drops by a million workers (as the CBO says could happen) or even a half million, how is that consistent with our values?  And what about stories of businesses adding “living wage” fees to the costs of their products and services?  Those won’t hurt the wealthy or upper-middleclass much, but they will very much hurt blue collar and low wage workers, who’s gains in wages would be more than eaten up by cost increases.

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Big Labor Reaches New Low Exploiting Tragedy

If there’s anything sadder than a tragic, fatal accident, it is the shameless exploitation of such an unfortunate incident to score cheap political points.  Friends and family are still mourning the victim of a recent New Jersey highway crash involving a commercial trucker, while loved ones are waiting for word as others, including Tracy Morgan, continue to recover.  Already, however, Big Labor is seeking to use the tragedy as fuel for a petty political skirmish.  This tactic is not only in poor taste, insulting to all those affected and patently cynical, it’s also being deliberately used to spread inaccurate information.

The president of the Teamsters – one of North America’s biggest unions – has sent a letter to Congress seeking to connect the New Jersey tragedy to a recently-adopted amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations legislation currently under negotiation.  Teamster President James Hoffa claims the amendment would keep truck drivers on the road too long and lead to driver fatigue, which he links to this accident.  The crash is still under investigation, and attempts by outside groups to discern the cause of the accident without access to all the evidence is irresponsible and counterproductive.

In addition, the amendment in question would not change the daily or weekly work limit or the daily rest break requirement to which truckers are currently subject.  These “Hours of Service” rules require that drivers work no more than 14 hours for any shift and 11 hours of driving, and mandates a “reset period” between shifts.  By all accounts, the driver involved in Saturday’s accident was in compliance with the rules.  But that’s not important to Hoffa.

He and the Teamsters are going after this bipartisan amendment because it would fix a unilateral rule changed that they helped engineer.  Last year, the Obama Administration – with the Teamsters’ backing – changed the “Hours of Service” rules to cut the number of trucks on the road in the low-traffic overnight hours, which thereby increased the number of trucks on the road during peak travel times.  This leads to not only congestion, but a greater likelihood of traffic accidents.  It also means more trucks on the road, which means more union drivers and more dues money for Hoffa’s coffers.

This is another desperate move by a Big Labor movement that’s anxiously struggling for relevance.  Union membership and collected dues are both on a steady decline, and along with them, the political clout of labor bosses like Hoffa.  It’s a shame that in order to preserve it, he feels he has to resort to exploiting tragedy.

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Empower Employees Act Introduced In Congress

Earlier this week, Senator Tim Scott introduced the Empower Employees Act.   Adopted from an amendment the Senator introduced last year, this bill that would prohibit the federal government from automatically deducting union dues from federal employee paychecks.  Senator Scott introduced this legislation as both a standalone bill and an amendment in previous Congresses.

Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House on May 30.

At issue is this fact: taxpayer dollars are used to collect public sector union dues from government employees.  This is a wholly inappropriate use of taxpayer money, as union dues are used prominently to fund political activity.

The Empower Employees Act would eliminate what is in effect a government union subsidy by making labor collect their own dues (i.e., unions would carry the administrative costs, not taxpayers).

Not only would this be better for taxpayers, but it would also give federal employees much more of a choice.

Unlike Big Labor, Senator Scott and Representative Meadows thankfully support employee choice.

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Fred Wszolek: Union Minimum Wage Push is Anti-Business, Not Pro-Worker

Union protestors are descending on Walmart stores across the country this week as the company’s shareholders meet at their Arkansas headquarters. The protestors have issued their typical calls for higher wages and other standard demands, but their main motive appears to be the disruption of Walmart’s business and the continuation of a smear campaign against America’s top private sector employer.

Unfortunately, this is typical union boss behavior. Similar antics were on display last month in the run-up to the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, when more than 130 demonstrators – very few of whom were actually employees – were arrested after refusing to vacate the driveway of the McDonald’s corporate offices. Protest activity forced McDonald’s to close their main headquarters building and some 2,000 of their employees were told to stay home from work.

It’s no coincidence that the actions against McDonald’s and Walmart seem similar. Both are textbook cases of top-down, nationally-coordinated disruption strategies orchestrated by labor front groups for some of the country’s biggest unions. In Illinois, demonstrations were led by a group called Fast Food Forward, while the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) provided bodies and financed the picket lines by the busload.

The anti-Walmart protests are being organized by a group calling itself the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), which claims on its website to be “an independent, not-for-profit organization” for Walmart employees. Documents filed with the Department of Labor, however, clearly identify OUR Walmart as a “subsidiary organization” of the massive United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. All the more interesting is the UFCW’s admission that OUR Walmart is “maintained in Washington, D.C.,” which removes any shred of belief that these protests are organic, grassroots efforts. In fact, once again, these protests have been demonstrated to be full of paid protestors acting as employees and do not demonstrate the will of Walmart employees.

OUR Walmart is a prime example of what’s known as a “worker center.” Worker centers are groups set up not as labor organizations – strictly speaking – but as nonprofits despite being basically owned and operated by Big Labor. As such, they don’t have to follow the same rules that govern traditional unions, but are well funded, receiving revenue through a variety of different sources, nearly $60 million between 2009 and 2012, and they carry out activities like these recent protests which advance Big Labor’s agenda.

Why would union bosses need a separate, shadowy organization to do its bidding? The answer is desperation, plain and simple. Labor membership is declining – the percentage of workers that belong to unions has dropped by nearly half over the last thirty years, and stands at only 11.3 percent. As labor membership declines, revenue from member dues declines. And with the money drying up, Big Labor’s political clout is on the wane as well.

Labor bosses are, quite obviously, not taking this well. The head of the UFCW, Joseph Hansen, certainly would not want to compromise his position or the $297,971 salary that comes with it. Worker center front groups are just another desperate attempt by union bosses to cling to their fading power.

How high are the stakes for Big Labor? Well, the Chicago Tribune reports that the SEIU spent at least $2 million last year funding Fast Food Forward. By the scale of activity, the UFCW likely spent that and more funding their front group.

Simply put, Big Labor’s bullying tactics aren’t working anymore. Their organizing model is badly outdated and they’re struggling for relevance. What’s more, they choose to focus their efforts targeting retailers like Walmart, which supplies necessary products and services to communities all across the country, and provides over one million American jobs. President Obama – himself hardly an enemy of Big Labor – even chose a Walmart location recently to deliver a major energy policy speech.

Union bosses have no reason to attack Walmart other than their own self-interest and greed, the very qualities they say corporations espouse. But when labor resorts to creating shadowy, D.C.-based front groups to stage faux protests and disrupt Americans simply trying to work and shop, it begs the question: who’s really playing dirty?

This article originally appeared in Town Hall, read it here.

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Another Day, Another Head Scratcher Of An Obama Labor Board Decision

According to The Washington Free Beacon, a “California National Labor Relations Board judge [has] ruled that a Hooters franchise cannot force its employees to act in a respectful manner toward customers, nor could managers punish employees for insubordination.”

What’s that now?  Did a government official basically just tell U.S. businesses that they cannot require employees to be respectful to customers – the very basis of civilized commerce!?  This is even more bizarre than the usual NRLB shenanigans; they are effectively rejecting the right for businesses to enforce a polite society within the confines of their establishments.

Truly, epically unbelievable.

Going further, “The local NLRB judge ordered the Hooters franchise to post a sign on its premises reading ‘WE WILL NOT maintain or enforce a provision in our Employee Handbook that prohibits employees from being disrespectful to the Company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors, posting no offensive language or pictures and no negative comments about the Company or coworkers of the Company’ after declaring such policies illegal, according to an NLRB ruling issued on May 18.”

Our urge to mock this situation is strong, but we will try and stick to the facts of the situation in the weeks and months ahead.

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