The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released multiple ads Tuesday criticizing union leaders for seeking an exemption to their own $15 minimum wage proposal in Santa Monica.
The ads included a newspaper spot and mobile billboard. They called the request for an exemption hypocrisy. Unions have been at the forefront of pushing for the Santa Monica minimum wage proposal. Union leader like Rusty Hicks have also been pushing an exemption to the proposal for unionized workers.
“Labor boss Rusty Hicks was criticized nationwide after he tried to sneak a union exemption to a minimum wage bill he pushed in Los Angeles,” the ad declared. “Now, he’s at it again in Santa Monica.”
Hicks also sought an exemption when his own city of Los Angeles voted in May to increase its wages to at least $15 an hour. This despite him leading the coalition behind getting the measure passed. Despite national criticism, Hicks has since moved on to encourage other cities to increase their wages while exempting unions.
“I think they should ask themselves what’s the motivation,” EPI Research Director Michael Saltsman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Are unions supporting this just to help themselves and boosts their own ranks.”
Hicks has defended his stance. He argued both the $15 minimum wage and an exemption for unions will help workers.
“This clause preserves and protects basic worker rights and that is why nearly every city in California that has ever passed a minimum wage ordinance has included these protections,” Hicks said back in May. “I would never do anything to undermine the rights of any worker.”
Even other union leaders have criticized Hicks for wanting an exemption while continuing to advocate for a higher minimum wage. David Rolf, president of Local 775 of the Service Employees International Union, questioned the justification behind the request.
Despite this, it is not at all unusual for unions to opt out of laws which raise the minimum wage. According to a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last December, many labor unions are exempt from the various local minimum wage laws they support.
“Not all minimum wage increases come in the same form,” the report notes. “Some local ordinances in particular include an exemption for employers that enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.”
The report details how these “escape clauses” are often designed to encourage unionization because they make membership a low-cost alternative for employers. This raises questions about who these minimum wage laws are actually meant to help, according to the report.
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