Why Minimum Wage Opponents Are Dropping Big Money to Trick You

minimum wage facts

The deeply ironic act of spending money to avoid paying workers even a cent more is not new; conservative think tanks, lobbyists, and industry groups have been shelling out money in the form of campaign donations, legal services, and “educational” materials for ages. Just look at how far the airlines and Port of Seattle went just to avoid paying SeaTac airport workers $15 an hour. That couldn’t have been cheap. And we know from a ROC report that the National Restaurant Association had (as of 2014) spent close to $13M on political donations since 1989, largely to fight proposed labor laws like increased minimum wage and sick leave.

But they’re not just throwing money at guys in suits to argue that this country is becoming a nanny state, damnit! No, they are also spending decent dollars on campaigns to actively mislead you—with clever names that sound like they may be quite scholarly.

Like, you know, MinimumWage.com:

minimum wage facts

…Which is paid for by the very-rational-sounding Employment Policies Institute (EPI—not to be confused with the other EPI, who actually do good work), who are in fact a right-wing think tank whose major focus is ensuring the minimum wage stays as low as possible.

Another “winner”: MinimumWageFacts.com:

minimum wage facts

…Which is a product of the Freedom Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank which has fought the unions at every possible turn.

And to be honest, I have to recognize the hustle that these groups are demonstrating. It’s extremely clever to just snatch up a domain knowing full well that people will be Googling exactly that fact. Plus, buying domains is fun! I recently did it myself!

But truly, the idea of spending real American dollars for the express purpose of spreading misinformation (more on that later) about a policy that could legitimately help people is just upsetting. And lest you think it’s not that much cash, allow me to examine.

Even just buying a website with a domain as coveted as that—hello, minimum wage dot com? Who wouldn’t want that? — is expensive, and having it designed and built is even more costly. In fact, according to a website that literally just estimates the worth of a site, MinimumWage.com is like, pretty spendy:

minimum wage facts

Yowza! $2,160? Why, that’s 298 hours worked at the minimum wage! Or, it’s how much more a worker currently making $7.25 would have after seven weeks of work if they were making $15. But of course, that’s not how much EPI actually spent; according to a 2014 tax filing, they dropped $1.7M “to maintain EPIonline.org, minimumwage.com, and tippedwage.com” as well as to do other things, like buy advertisements.

minimum wage facts

 

That’s 234,483 hours worked at the minimum wage—or about the cost to employ more than 4,500 workers full-time for a  year—but who cares? That’s chump change to an organization (which is exempt from income tax!) whose gross receipts totaled over $3.6M.

And while all of that is a sincere bummer, and also really fishy—have you ever stopped to wonder why someone would spend more money than a minimum wage person will see in a lifetime to keep those same people from making an extra few dollars each year? Like maybe, I don’t know, racism, classism, misogyny, or greed?—the truly sad part is that they’re not even doing a good job of it. I mean, EPI has an infographic with little to no information on it and their blog posts on the subject routinely ignore very salient research from the University of Washington, UC Berkley, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and other valuable resources.

And the Freedom Foundation’s site is a true nightmare. The FAQ is literally dummy text:

minimum wage facts

…and their research page may as well be, as it’s more than half full of citations from the same researcher who—surprise! Works for EPI!

minimum wage facts

 

Now, I am sure opponents of the minimum wage will gleefully point to the fact that as we speak, I am getting paid real American dollars to write this blog post. And that SEIU and other labor and interest groups have also spent money to further the idea that it’s good for the economy when workers have more money. But if that is your counterpoint—that we, too, are making it rain to push our agenda—consider who that agenda helps. I have literally no financial stake in whether or not the minimum wage goes up or down. I’m doing this because I believe that people should be able to support themselves with full-time work, and that the economy is better off when people have more money in their pockets to spend on stuff in their community. Interestingly, there’s a large body of evidence from think tanks, universities—and the U. S. government—to back me on that.

So when someone tells you a scary story about how raising the minimum wage will cost you your job, ask yourself: What are they getting out of it?

 

 

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Hanna Brooks Olsen
Hanna Brooks Olsen is a reporter in Seattle. Her writing about the economy and politics has appeared in the Atlantic, the Nation, Salon, Fast Company, and elsewhere.