Minimum wage rally
John Wright

Minimum wage laws price-low skilled workers out of the workforce. They hurt many of the people they’re intended to help. But did you know that the unions representing low-skilled workers are among the biggest special interests behind minimum wage legislation? How do unions benefit from a policy that kills jobs?

In California, where unions such as SEIU and Unite Here successfully pushed through a $15-dollar minimum wage law, the very same unions are seeing a backlash after workers discover they’re left out of the deal. It turns out these unions also pushed through exemptions to the minimum wage for unionized workers. Now businesses have a choice of paying $15 an hour for a nonunion worker or about $10 an hour for a union worker. A clear incentive to buy union labor.

Needless to say, workers feel betrayed. Alicia Yale, 42, a waitress at a hotel in Los Angeles and a mother of two children, is critical of the union’s policy.

"Why is it more of a benefit to be in a union? The union isn't really doing anything for us," she told the LA Times. "It's completely upside-down. They want to pay us less than the minimum wage… We should get the raise just like everybody else does."

From a union executive’s position, advocating lower wages for union workers may make a lot of sense. True, your members get paid less, but if the end result is more union workers, that will translate to more union dues.

Here in Missouri, union money is still going to the $15 minimum wage campaign. One of their slogans is “$15 and a union.” Union workers who are part of their campaign might want to ask their union’s executives for some clarification: “Will I be cut out of this deal, like union members in California were?”

About the Author

John Wright
Policy Analyst

John Wright was a policy analyst focusing on government transparency and labor relations.