LA union leaders, some of the strongest supporters of the city’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, have called for an interesting exception to the rule: their own members. The labor leaders have argued that collective bargaining rights trump city rules under federal law, and that exempting unionized workers from the minimum wage increase will allow those workers the “freedom” they need in collective bargaining.
An official with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which has opposed the law, excoriated labor for this seeming contradiction, saying “Once again, the soaring rhetoric of helping the working poor is just a cover for city government acting as a tool of organized labor.”
While we wouldn’t put it quite like that, it’s true that this move looks rather fishy. Indeed, opponents of minimum wage laws often point out the very disadvantage that LA’s labor leaders refuse to accept for themselves: that such laws deny all workers the flexibility to accept lower wages in exchange for other things they might want, like, say, flexible or part-time hours, the opportunity to telecommute, or even just a shot at a job itself. Whether or not you credit that argument, LA unions would seem a lot more convincing in their efforts to deny such flexibility to other workers if they weren’t trying to reserve it for themselves.