We have entered the Twilight Zone. Because there is virtually no other explanation of the latest crusade by labor leaders in Los Angeles. Union leaders are lobbying Los Angeles city council members to be EXEMPT from paying a $15 minimum wage in workplaces where unions exist. Tim Worstall from Forbes got it right in his opening salvo on the matter: “This is really quite glorious as a display of sheer naked chutzpah.”
The unions themselves have been some of the biggest supporters of the wage increase, not just in Los Angeles, but around the country. Now when it comes to actually paying that wage in Los Angeles, which is poised to be approved by city council, the unions want to retain their right to collective bargaining — which means paying a lower wage if they want. Here is the sheer hypocrisy:
“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.”
You can’t make this up. Currently, businesses are not mandated to pay a $15/hour minimum wage and therefore really, truly, actually have, right now, what Mr. Union Rusty Hicks is asking for: “the option, the freedom, to negotiate” an agreement between a business owner and an employee for their wages, allowing “each party to prioritize what is important to them”. That’s what exists now. No mandated wage. Unions seem to be following the “Do as I say, not as I do” playbook.
What is really happening is that the unions want to be able to retain exclusivity on certain contracts. The exemption they are seeking is in places where unions exist in the workplace. By being exempt, this will give the unions the upper hand on contracts. If you were an employer who now will have to pay a $15/hour minimum wage, and the unions can come in and undercut that wage amount by negotiating $13/hour, which do you think an employer will pay? The $15/hour mandated wage for non unions, or the $13/hour union contract? The unions are fearful that leveling the playing field by mandating a $15/hour minimum wage for all will mean that they will lose some (or many) contract — meaning less money in the union’s pockets.
Now I’m not a fan of the proposed $15/hour minimum wage hike, ironically for some of the same reasons that the unions are pleading — a business owner and an employee ought to have the right to agree on wages without an artificial, arbitrary price floor. However, I’m even less of a fan of the idea that unions, or any other group, should be able to claim an exemption. If the city of Los Angeles is going to pass this legislation, then it should be binding for all. Either $15/hour is good for everyone, or no one. Shame on the unions for their brazen hypocrisy.