News & Commentary

January 11, 2016

In an op-ed for Forbes, “Seattle Food Jobs Soar After $11 Minimum Wage Starts,” Erik Sherman offers hard data to disabuse the notion that Seattle’s decision to raise the minimum wage would “crush restaurant employment.”  The immediate aftermath of the city’s wage hike was not looking good for proponents of the living wage, notes Sherman.  Between April and May 2015 1,000 restaurant positions disappeared.  Yet now, with eight months of data to analyze, Sherman points out that there has actually been a net gain of 900 jobs — which is enough, he argues, to silence the policy’s opponents.  But Tim Worstall, also writing for Forbes, is not impressed by these employment figures.  Still predicting that the minimum wage will produce negative outcomes, Worstall contends that Sherman’s emphasis on the increase in food jobs misses the mark. “[T]he prediction [is] that less human labor will be employed at $15 an hour than would have been employed if the minimum wage has not risen to that amount.”   On that hypothetical score, the word is still out.

An administrative law judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing McDonald’s of unfair labor practices at its franchised locations, reports    Al Jazeera.  The plaintiffs, who are linked to the Fight for $15 campaign, allege certain McDonald’s franchisees retaliated against those who participated in the fight to raise wages.  Much is riding on this suit for the McDonald Corporation because of a 2014 NLRB decision finding that it is a “joint employer” of the fast food workers along with the franchisees.  Accordingly, if the ALJ comes out in favor of the fast-food workers, McDonald’s will likely be stuck with a costly tab for union busting.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities continue to arrest labor activists campaigning for the legal rights of low-income workers, says Reuters. Yesterday the government formally seized four activists who have been leading the charge against what they view as unfair labor practices in the southern province of Guangdong, a manufacturing epicenter.  Three of the men were arrested for “disturbing social order” and another for embezzlement.  Just last month seven other activists were arrested in Guangzhou on similar charges.  Reuters reports that the detentions have hastened just as strikes in China have risen to a record 2,744 in 2015 — or double the figure from 2014.

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