Union membership has declined precipitously in recent years, but you have to hand it to them for being willing to do anything to hold on to power.
The latest trick: campaign to hike the minimum wage to unrealistic levels and then get an exemption from that very same minimum wage hike.
Labor unions in at least half dozen communities that have raised the minimum wage have fought for union waiver provisions. You're thinking, "But this doesn't make sense." But it does. In a column headlined "The Tony Soprano Enabling Act," columnist Walter Russell Mean explains how it works:
The unions have said it gives them more flexibility in negotiations and shields employers and cities against lawsuits.
But the real answer, silly, is the exemptions create an incentive to force companies like hotels and fast food chains to recognize labor unions precisely so they can keep labor costs down.
The Wall Street Journal has also explained how it works:
The carve-outs are increasingly drawing the ire of business groups representing the hotel and tourism industries, among others. They say such exemptions are a way for unions to organize or gain negotiating power by using the ability to opt out of the wage law as leverage to achieve other goals.
For instance, business groups say, unions could advise companies that if they agree to labor representation, they can avoid paying the minimum wage, spending less on wages overall. The strategy could let unions bolster their ranks at a time when union membership is falling, business groups say.
Unions, which have pledged to push forward on minimum-wage increases at the local, state and federal levels, now face a choice: seek to include clauses that could strengthen their bargaining power or drop them in the name of advocating for all workers, union members or otherwise.
This is, as Mead explains, a way for unions to get more members and thus more dues and so workers can end up with the "right" to belong to a union and make less money for doing so. These two-tiered minimum wage laws are "a recipe for civic suicide:"
Minimum wage laws like the ones adopted by so many financially challenged blue cities recently are job killers that force ordinary working people into dependency, creating a large group of people who can’t get work at the artificially inflated pay rate and so depend more and more on politicians to give them the handouts without which they cannot survive. For their part, businesses need exemptions from regulations and taxes that would otherwise kill them, and under these labor loopholes, are forced to cut deals with union bosses to stay in business at all.
It’s a recipe for civic suicide, but it helps a parasitic class of union bosses and political bosses and crooked single party political machines stay in power.
One way to stop that would be for state governments to intervene and outlaw minimum wage laws that offer labor loopholes.
There should not be two classes of workers in American states, and private organizations like labor unions should not be able to grant exemptions to public laws.
Businesses should also not be tricked into promoting union shops that, ironically (or maybe not ironically), won't benefit the employees.