Southern California labor leaders are now trying to exempt themselves from new minimum wage rules they demanded.
Organized labor has often attacked companies that paid some employees minimum wage. Carrying signs asserting, “We see greed,” union members marched outside corporations and appeared at city council meetings demanding Los Angeles raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15 by 2020.
Now, union officials are demanding a waiver to allow all union shops to avoid paying the higher wages.
Allowing union shops to pay lower wages than non-union shops may create an unfair market where it becomes impossible to compete unless a business unionizes.
The move is seen by many as hypocritical.
“I’d refer everyone back to the statements of labor leaders over the past seven months that no one deserves a sub-minimum wage,” said Ruben Gonzalez, sr. vice president for public policy and political affairs with the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Once again, the soaring rhetoric of helping the working poor is just a cover for city government acting as a tool of organized labor,” he said.
Recent reporting illustrates how unions use these exemptions for their own gain:
In Long Beach, Calif., UNITE-HERE failed for a decade to organize two major hotels. In 2013 the union placed a measure on the ballot requiring large hotels to pay at least $13 an hour. The measure also exempted unionized hotels. Soon after it passed the unions organized both hotelswith the active assistance of the hotels’ management.
Milwaukee passed an ordinance requiring county contractors to pay $11.32 an hour, also allowing an exemption for unionized firms. Shortly after it passed, the Service Employees International Union offered to exempt a home-care provider from the wage increase if she agreed todeduct union dues from her 1,500 employee’s wages.
Seattle requires employers to provide paid sick leave—with an exemption for unionized firms. The city auditor reports that two-thirds of affected unions used that exemption in some or all of their contracts.
Even some of the LA City Council now find the union tactics distasteful:
Councilmen Mike Bonin and O’Farrell are opposing the move.
“It is not acceptable to expect the L.A. City Council to become a vehicle for union organizing,” said O’Farrell. “That is not what we were elected to do and that is not what I will engage in.”
Bonin agreed, telling the Los Angeles Times, “For me, the point of the minimum wage in Los Angeles was to raise wages and lift [everyone] out of poverty.”
Now, it would appear that many are looking at big labor and saying “we see greed.”