Los Angeles Union officials face scrutiny after requesting exempt status from the $15 minimum wage hike they vehemently fought for.
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and AFL-CIO’s executive secretary-treasurer Rusty Hicks proposed legislation that would deny $15 hourly wage union workers under collective bargaining agreements.
Hicks justified his call for several reasons,according to The Guardian.
“This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.” Specifically, he claims union workers paid below the minimum wage can better bargain for benefits. He argues the collective bargaining exemption can allow both employers and workers to “prioritize what is important to them.”
Los Angeles voted in favor of a raised minimum wage in May. The council is expected to vote on Hicks’s proposal later this weekend as the session begins after summer recess.
Rusty Hicks is confident he is acting in the best interest of his workers. Yet many, including union allies, aren’t believing his statements.
While such an exemption exists for various local unions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce denounced such a clause in a report last year labeling it the “escape clause”.
Such a clause makes it easier for workers to unionize, but that doesn’t necessarily they will have same protections. A company is more likely to allow unionization, if it means they can avoid paying the mandated minimum wage. The theory is that workers and union officials will then be able to bargain for benefits and other guarantees to compensate for the reduced hourly wage.
Critics assert all it does is ensure union leaders an expanded membership. This means more member dues and more cash in officials’ pockets.
“Unions don’t actually care about the employees they seek to represent,” Matt Haller, senior vice-president of communications and public affairs at the International Franchise Association, told The Guardian. “They only care about getting more union members, generating initiation fees and growing their political stranglehold over politicians.
The Fight For 15 movement dismissed his proposal. Fight for 15 advocates for raising the minimum wage nationwide to $15 an hour.
According to Kendall Fells, an organizer for the movement, the group supports a $15 wage for “all workers – in LA and everywhere – and don’t support anything that could undermine that.”
What makes the request even more puzzling is the amount of money unions have already spent demanding a hike in the minimum wage. International unions have spent millions of dollar on the Fight For 15 campaign. SEIU is reported to have spent over $18 million dollars in 2014 alone. Many question why so much money was spent on the issue, if a lower wage is more beneficial to union members.