Today's News & Commentary — October 28
Where can you move to get paid living wages as a fast food worker? Denmark. The New York Times article, “Living Wages Rarity for U.S. Fast Food Workers, Served Up in Denmark,” outlines the disparity in what workers at international fast food chains like Burger King are making in Denmark, where the base wage for fast food workers is $20 an hour, and what these chains pay workers in the United States. This wage disparity has prompted labor activists to ask the question: “If Danish chains can pay $20 an hour, why can’t those in the United States pay the $15 an hour that many fast-food workers have been clamoring for?” Many business groups and American economists say that the comparison is deeply flawed, and does not take into account the fundamental differences between the two nations. These differences include Denmark’s high cost of living and high taxes, generous social welfare safety net, and a collaboration focused collective bargaining system in which workers’ unions and employer associations work together. Denmark has no minimum wage law, the $20 an hour wage floor was set by agreement between the nation’s largest workers union 3F, and the employer’s group Horesta, which includes Burger King, Starbucks, McDonald’s and other restaurants and hotels.
For Republicans this election season, “the minimum wage is the wedge issue from hell,” Politico reports. Even as Democrats struggle towards the finish line, possibly facing yet another rough midterm election, the minimum wage is one issue that the Democrats seem to be clearly winning. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year found 90 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans favored raising the federal minimum to $10.10 from its current $7.25, as proposed by President Barack Obama to Congress earlier this year. Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota—all four Republican leaning—have state level minimum wage increases on the ballot to be considered by voters and it appears likely that they will pass in all four. Democrats are hopeful that their presence on the ballot will boost Democratic turnout and help candidates in those states. Republicans, however, remain confident that they will take the Senate, that confidence likely due in part to the fact that they feel as though they have “defused” the issue by endorsing the ballot measures, as we covered here.
Labor group Wisconsin Jobs Now is suing Gov. Scott Walker in an effort to force him to raise the state’s minimum wage, Reuters reports. The group argues that according to a state law, workers must be paid a “living wage,” or an amount with which they can pay for basic needs, and that the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 is no longer a living wage. With the lawsuit the group seeks a finding that $7.25 per hour is not a living wage, and to force Walker to convene a commission to determine a new minimum. The group accuses Gov. Walker of basing his “finding” that the state’s minimum wage is a living wage on a study that was conducted and published by the Wisconsin Restaurants Association, an organization that is and has been a major campaign contributor opposing the wage increase.