Sunday, December 17, 2006

Minimum wage and hypocrisy

Megan McArdle looks at how one of the premier left-wing fundraising organizations treats its own employees.
If you want to know why I am no longer a lefty, just read this series on MyDD about PIRG, the organisation that supervised my transition from ultraliberal to libertarian. I have never worked at any organisation, including the Catskills hotel that basically used foriegn temporary labour in sweatshop fashion, that treated its employees as shamefully as PIRG. People talk about workers being disposable, but no other business model I have encountered depends on its employees having an average tenure of two weeks, the better to funnel their lost wages up the hierarchy to god-knows-where. It's all there in the series, what happens to you if you threaten to make too much money: the paycheck mixups that all run in favour of PIRG and somehow can never be rectified, the sudden firings of people for having a bad day, the curiously malleable policies on things like sick leave and holiday pay, which ensure that no one actually ever collects same, the shamelessly llame pretexts for getting rid of the overly successful, and the deliberate assignments to bad turf in order to depress your wages and thus force you to quit, or if that doesn't work, give them an excuse to fire you.
Similarly, ACORN, an advocacy group well known for campaigns to raise the minimum wage, didn't want to pay minimum wage to its own workers:
ACORN and Minimum Wage Hypocrisy ACORN is a vocal proponent of minimum wage hikesexcept when they apply to its own organization. ACORN actually sued the state of California to have its employees exempted from the state minimum wage. The group argued that if it were forced to pay higher wages, it would also have to hire fewer employeesthe very dilemma faced by businesses.
Even the Democratic Party tries to get away without paying the minimum wage to its employees:
Alex Scherer-Jones began working for Grassroots Campaigns to fight the Bush administration and elevate the fortunes of the Democratic Party. The 21-year-old MATC student left feeling exploited and sour: "I went in there being very idealistic, and it kind of ruined my idealism."

The job involves going door to door asking people to give money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, using talking points that include a call to raise the minimum wage. For this, Scherer-Jones says he was paid far less than the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
The Democrats tried to claim that the rules don't apply to them:
"These kinds of fund-raising and sales positions are governed under different [rules]," asserts [Wes] Jones [the national canvass director] in a phone interview from Seattle....

These practices likely violate state law. Rose Lynch, spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Development, says there are no special rules for canvassing firms, and "even individuals paid on a commission basis must receive at least minimum wage."
The left doesn't want to obey the rules that it advocates. One might think that this would them cause to stop and think whether the rules they advocate are good ones or not, but it doesn't.

The Public Policy Institute of California has done a study on "living wages" and found what would seem to be obvious to be worth a study: raising minumum wages causes an increase in unemployment among the lowest skilled labor.
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