Last weekend, the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) held its 2015 convention in SeaTac. As you could imagine, quite a lot occurred during the convention—Democrat King County Executive Dow Constantine made fun of Jay Inslee, Democrat state Attorney General Bob Ferguson proclaimed his undying love for the $15 minimum wage and a union boss—surprisingly—admitted the likely demise of forced union membership of public employees.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to detail all the absurd statements that were made—not that you would even want to know. Luckily, the Freedom Foundation has provided a list of the highlights. Here are three of our favorites:
Gebre: Does mass incarceration actually contribute to this inequality? Yes it does.
Audience member (probably Department of Corrections employee): No!
Gebre: Let me finish. When we do a national survey of workers in this country, eight out of 10 African-Americans tell us they would join a union if they get an opportunity. Here’s a problem: Most of those people are locked in jail or, when they come out of jail, because of a record, they can’t join a union. They can’t help you raise wages. That’s why fighting mass incarceration has to be part of our raising wages agenda.
The Freedom Foundation offers an explanation/response for this particular quote here.
“Where workers have more money (because of increases in the minimum wage), businesses have more customers. And when businesses have more customers, they can hire more workers. I plan for this to be the subject of my doctoral dissertation some day. It’s a very complex and novel theory (sarcasm). It’s a virtuous cycle.”
Constantine’s theory may be nice, but it is also entirely inaccurate. The Freedom Foundation points out that “the money to pay employees a higher minimum wage comes from employers, who typically have to increase prices or scale back on labor to pay for it. No matter how you slice it, it is impossible to argue that arbitrarily increasing a firm’s labor costs is going to be good for the firm or the economy generally in the long run.”
“We have to recognize that many of our lowest-paying jobs are overrepresented by women and workers of color… Raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour in Washington state would raise wages for over a half million workers and would provide $1 billion of purchasing power to our communities and would lower our state’s poverty rate. An increase like this would especially hurt, help workers of color and women who work in low-wage industries.”
The Freedom Foundation offers the perfect rebuttal, stating: “The WSLC made similar claims and promises back in 1998 to get voters to approve Washington’s current minimum wage law, the highest state minimum wage in the nation. What happened? The poverty rate didn’t budge, job growth in low-wage/entry-level industries slowed and the unemployment rate for low-skilled workers like teens skyrocketed.”