Government-mandated minimum wages cost jobs

January 19, 2019

If only someone had warned us:

NYC restaurants cutting staff hours as minimum wage hits $15

The legal minimum wage for New York City employers with 11 or more workers rose more than 15 percent on Dec. 31, 2018, to $15 per hour from $13, giving fast-food, retail and other employees a bump in pay. But some New York City restaurant owners say the latest minimum wage hike is forcing them to cut workers’ hours just to stay afloat.

The article then makes an odd claim:

It’s not just a New York phenomenon, however: Minimum wages rose in 20 states with the new year, forcing businesses across the country to grapple with higher payrolls — and compete for workers with giants like Amazon that are already offering $15 an hour.

So, the need to “compete” for workers required the state to artificially raise wages beyond what many businesses can afford? This is helping how? 

The article then talks to someone “helped” by this new law:

“We lost control of our largest controllable expense,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “So in order to live with that and stay in business, we’re cutting hours.”

Bloostein said he has scaled back on employee hours and no longer uses hosts and hostesses during lunch on light traffic days. Customers instead are greeted with a sign that reads, “Kindly select a table.” He also staggers employees’ start times. “These fewer hours add up to a lot of money in restaurants,” he said.

But the victims aren’t just the employees:

Bloostein said he has increased menu prices, too. “So as a result [of the minimum wage hike], it will cost more to dine out,” he said.

Meaning people on a budget will likely dine out less often. Great work!

As I’ve argued many times before, labor is a cost of doing business that businesses have to account for. When costs go up, these firms have only a few choices:

  1. They can pass on the cost to the consumer, risking the loss of customers’ business.
  2. They can cut labor costs by reducing hiring, cutting back hours, laying off employees, and automating.
  3. They can decide the reduced profit isn’t worth it and close shop, costing all employees their jobs.
  4. They can move out of the jurisdiction, probably costing local employees their jobs.

We’ve seen examples of this happening time and again in recent years, and the people who get hurt are the very ones these “enlightened” policies are supposed to help. Does a minimum wage of $15 per hour help when the jobs have been filled by order-taking kiosks and tablets?

Wages should only be determined by economic logic: what the business can afford to pay vs. the worker’s desired wage (and other benefits, such as learned skills, &c). If the business doesn’t pay enough for the work required, then they won’t find good employees: the business will suffer and they will be forced to raise wages to compete, if they want to stay in business.

Anything else is an attempt to impose utopia by people who don’t understand the way the world works, or by politicians looking for donations from unions.

h/t Mike LaChance at Legal Insurrection


(Video) Does the minimum wage prevent poverty?

May 22, 2017

Hint: No. In fact, I would argue that raising the minimum wage makes  becoming trapped in poverty more likely, because it become less and less affordable to hire the unskilled and marginally skilled and then train them, as opposed to hiring someone who already has the skills.

But that’s economics, something the Left thinks it can bend its will. Think again.

Anyway, here’s a short video from Prager University on the topic:


Failing State: $15 minimum wage drives clothing manufacturer out of Los Angeles

April 17, 2016
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage! Yay, Jerry Brown!!”

In my posts on the minimum wage and the Left’s push to raise it ever higher, I’ve tried to point out one key truth: Labor is a cost of doing business that businesses have to account for. When costs go up, these firms have only a few choices:

  1. They can pass on the cost to the consumer, risking the loss of customers’ business.
  2. They can cut labor costs by reducing hiring, cutting back hours, laying off employees, and automating.
  3. They can decide the reduced profit isn’t worth it and close shop, costing all employees their jobs.
  4. They can move out of the jurisdiction, probably costing local employees their jobs.

The government of California recently decided to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, an increase of 50% from today’s state-mandated rate. At the bill’s signing, the Governor said the measure didn’t make “economic sense.” (1)

One employer, at least, agrees with him:

Los Angeles was once the epicenter of apparel manufacturing, attracting buyers from across the world to its clothing factories, sample rooms and design studios.

But over the years, cheap overseas labor lured many apparel makers to outsource to foreign competitors in far-flung places such as China and Vietnam.

Now, Los Angeles firms are facing another big hurdle — California’s minimum wage hitting $15 an hour by 2022 — which could spur more garment makers to exit the state.

Last week American Apparel, the biggest clothing maker in Los Angeles, said it might outsource the making of some garments to another manufacturer in the U.S., and wiped out about 500 local jobs. The company still employs about 4,000 workers in Southern California.

“The exodus has begun,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands and a former director at Forever 21. “The garment industry is gradually shrinking and that trend will likely continue.”

When San Francisco raised the city’s minimum wage, a beloved bookstore closed shop because the cost of business had grown too high. Seattle has lost 700 restaurant jobs because the restaurant industry’s thin profit margins cannot support a $15 minimum wage.

And it’s not just current workers who are harmed: low-skill or unskilled youths looking for that first job are going to discover its harder to find one. Not only will fewer jobs be available out of the limited pool of funds set aside for hiring, but employers are going to want more for their money: employees who already have skills, who require less training. The unskilled 17 year old looking for his or her first job is going to be a lot less attractive.

Great work, legislature and governor, activists and union leaders.You’re driving businesses out of state, costing people jobs, and making it harder to find work. Well done.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, that road runs through Sacramento.

RELATED: Moe Lane notes that AA was bleeding cash from paying already-uneconomical wages.

Footnote:
(1) I leave it to the reader as an exercise to determine why a governor would sign a bill he says make no economic sense. Or, you can read the article.

 


Minimum Wage Mandates Help Workers…into the Unemployment Line

December 17, 2015

Progressive city councils (Hello, Seattle and Los Angeles!) and state governments (Hiya, California!) have a lot to answer for: pricing out of the job market the very people they claim to want to help — young people and the poor.

International Liberty

As you can see from this interview, I get rather frustrated by the minimum wage debate. I’m baffled that some people don’t realize that jobs won’t be created unless it’s profitable to create them.

You would think the negative effects of a higher minimum wage in Seattle would be all the evidence that’s needed, but I’ve noted before that many people decide this issue based on emotion rather than logic.

So even though we have lots of evidence already that wage mandates cause joblessness (especially for minorities), let’s add to our collection.

Here are some excerpts from a Wall Street Journal column by Professor David Neumark from the University of California Irvine.

Economists have written scores of papers on the topic dating back 100 years, and the vast majority of these studies point to job losses for the least-skilled. They are based on fundamental economic reasoning—that…

View original post 666 more words


#RaiseTheWage – Applebee’s testing tablet ordering in California

November 22, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage!”

Action, meet reaction.

Last night I took my wife and our two young grandchildren to Applebee’s. It went great — our 4 and 2 year old charges were more decorous than half the patrons.

But I digress. Here’s what caught my attention: Applebee’s is testing a new ordering policy — using the technology that is rapidly becoming prominent in fast food restaurants. Every table had an online electronic tablet, with the menu, ordering and payment process built in. One can place the order and have the busboy bring your food.

For now, one can still use a waiter for service, but obviously the plan is to reduce or eliminate that service. That makes PARTICULARLY good sense in California, which is rapidly becoming the home of the $15 minimum wage. Moreover, California is one of only 7 states that requires “tip” employees to be paid a FULL minimum wage IN ADDITION TO all tips collected. That can make a meal too pricey — reducing the number of times patrons choose to dine out.

California’s minimum wage is currently $9 per hour and will rise to $10 in January. Here in Los Angeles, the minimum wage has been $15 dollars since June, and there is pressure to make that the statewide minimum.

The upshot? Expect to see more and more restaurants going to electronic ordering and payment systems, and more and more waiters and waitresses out of work, as progressive social justice warriors and the pols who appease them make it impossible to do business in the once-Golden State. Again, for those didn’t learn this in school, math wins:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

San Francisco’s Borderlands bookstore chose to close its doors because it could no longer make enough money to make staying in business worthwhile. Applebee’s (and I’m sure other restaurants and fast-food establishments) are looking to cut back on labor hours in order to balance the increased cost of labor. In each case, employees have lost jobs as a consequence of government interference in the labor-management relationship. It’s only going to get worse, too as long as statists in government continue to act as if the laws of economics will bend to their will and that their actions have no consequences.

It must be nice in their fantasy world; it’s a shame others have to suffer because of those fantasies.


#RaiseTheWage: We tried to warn you, Seattle, but you wouldn’t listen, and so…

October 30, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the wage! Obama!!”

We really did try to warn them: Increasing the minimum wage beyond economically sustainable(1) levels will lead to bad, albeit predictable consequences, such as job losses:

Seattle, which recently passed a $15 minimum wage, has seen the loss of 700 restaurant jobs despite the rest of the state seeing huge increases, according to a Wednesday report.

In its report, the American Enterprise Institute looked at restaurant job growth in both Seattle and the rest of Washington. The state itself has gained 5,800 industry jobs since January. Seattle, however, lost 700 jobs in the same time. The state minimum wage is $9.47. Back in June Seattle passed its own minimum wage of $15 an hour. The city ordinance is designed to phase in over the course of several years. It will reach $15 an hour by 2017 for most employers.

“One likely cause of the stagnation and decline of Seattle area restaurant jobs this year is the increase in the city’s minimum wage,” the report speculated. “It looks like the Seattle minimum wage hike is getting off to a pretty bad start. Especially considering that restaurant employment in the rest of the state is booming, and nearly 6,000 more restaurant workers are employed today than in January.”

As I’ve said before:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

That was in San Francisco. In Seattle, it looks like restaurant owners decided on some mixture of cutting labor hours, or perhaps moving out of Seattle altogether. In at least one case, workers asked to reduced their hours, so they wouldn’t lose their jobs… and their government subsidies.

Of course, this is to the benefit of areas with lower labor costs around Seattle; at least some of them absorbed those jobs and the tax revenue from people looking for better prices.

Meanwhile, assuming those restaurants didn’t close, let me introduce you to your new server:

Welcome to the future

Need no wages

The progressive elites running Seattle (and San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles and…) almost certainly feel good for fighting for “economic justice” and “fairness.

It’s a shame the average working stiff has to suffer for their egos.

PS: The ideal minimum wage is zero.

Foonote:
(1) One of the progressive left’s favorite environmental-justice words. Maybe we should use it so they can start to understand economics.


Seattle: #RaiseTheWage, choose to work less

July 26, 2015
Didn't pay attention

Seattle economics adviser

Okay, I have to admit it: I was wrong about the choices facing business owners when a jurisdiction mandates a minimum wage increase. On several occasions, I’ve written something like the following:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

Well, it seems I didn’t figure on one other possibility: employees demanding to work fewer hours.

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM.

And…

The notion that employees are intentionally working less to preserve their welfare has been a hot topic on talk radio. While the claims are difficult to track, state stats indeed suggest few are moving off welfare programs under the new wage.

A minimum wage is a form of economic redistribution and welfare, taking money from business owners and giving it to the employees in the name of “fairness” and “justice.” The idea, as averred in the last quoted paragraph, is to help get people off government aid. Good intentions, no?

Well, we all know what’s said about using good intentions as paving material. Like so many welfare programs, the minimum wage creates a perverse incentive to not increase one’s income, for fear of losing desirable benefits. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute has a wonderful chart and post explaining this very problem, what he calls a “poverty trap.” By raising the minimum wage, in addition to all the other problems it causes, Seattle is creating its own poverty trap, one that encourages people to work less.

Now how, I ask progressives, is that “progress?”

PS: Read the whole article for other problems caused by Seattle leftists’ good intentions arrogant, economically ignorant self-righteousness.


Must be a coincidence: San Francisco raises minimum wage, Chipotle’s raises prices

July 7, 2015
No way!!

No way!! Magical thinking doesn’t work??

I predicted this from the start. Oh, okay, I didn’t predict exactly *this*, per se, but, on the occasion of a popular San Francisco bookstore closing because of the minimum wage hike, I wrote the following:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

Borderlands Bookstore chose option three: close the doors and put everyone out of work. It just wasn’t worth it to fight to stay in business anymore.

Let us not be surprised, then, that the Chipotle’s restaurant chain chose option one: pass the costs on to the consumer.

• In our weekly survey of ten of Chipotle’s markets, we found the company implemented price increases in half of the surveyed markets this week—San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Orlando. In most markets, the price increases have been limited to beef and average about 4% on barbacoa and steak, toward the lower end of management’s expectation for a 4% to 6% price increase on beef.

• San Francisco, however, saw across-the-board price increases averaging over 10%, including 10% increases on chicken, carnitas (pork), sofritas (tofu), and vegetarian entrees along with a 14% increase on steak and barbacoa. We believe the outsized San Francisco price hike was likely because of increased minimum wages (which rose by 14% from $10.74 per hour to $12.25 on May 1) as well as scheduled minimum wage increases in future years (to $13 next year, $14 in 2017, and $15 in 2018).

Say it after me, kiddies: Economics wins; math wins. Rinse, repeat. No matter what the progressive tooth fairy told the San Francisco Board of Commissars Supervisors, when you mandate a wage increase, something has to give. In this case, the “giver” is “Workaday Joe,” the poor sap who has to bear the brunt of this and other increases to his cost of living.

Not that the limousine liberals of the Bay Area will notice, however: they either can afford higher prices, or they have expense accounts that can afford them. Regardless, they can continue feeling good about themselves.

And that’s all that matters to them.

via Moe Lane

RELATED: At Power Line, Scott Johnson looks at the killing of a woman by an illegal alien taking advantage of San Francisco’s “sanctuary” laws and meditates on its deep meaning.


Los Angeles: union hypocrisy on parade #RaiseTheWage

May 27, 2015
x

Union economics adviser at work

You have to love the moxie of these racketeers: demand a economically nonsensical minimum wage, $15 per hour, and then, when the city is about to implement it, demand an exception for union members because business owners have threatened to do the logical thing: cut jobs.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

Let’s review a basic lesson in economics, shall we, from another progressive, heavily unionized city:

Like I’ve said many times before: the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat. Raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. Ritu Shah Burnham may have loved her business, or she may have hated it. But, regardless, she’s come to the conclusion it isn’t worth staying in business in Seattle. She isn’t the first, and other small businesses in other progressive cities have made the same choice.

Apparently Rusty Hicks understands economics better than the Los Angeles city council and realizes he stands to lose union (dues-paying) jobs when the minimum wage goes up. So, he wants the freedom to negotiate a lower wage, more in line with economic reality. Fine. He’s pursuing his members’ interests.

How odd that he doesn’t want to allow that same freedom to all workers and business owners.

Afterthought: There is actually a sneaky benefit to this for the unions, besides preserving jobs. If unions can negotiate lower wages, there would then be an incentive for non-union businesses to unionize. That would lead to more union jobs and more dues coming into the union’s coffers. Oh, Rusty. You sly dog, you.

via Michael Strain


#RaiseTheWage – Seattle pizzeria to close thanks to economic ignorance

April 29, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least they raised the wage!!”

To paraphrase Mark 8:36, “For what good does it do a city to raise the wages of it workers, yet forfeit the jobs?” In Seattle, San Francisco’s northern soul-mate, they may well be asking that very question:

It may be one of the first casualties of Seattle’s new minimum wage law. The owner of Z Pizza says she’s being forced to close her doors, because she can’t afford the higher labor costs.

Devin Jeran was happy to get a raise, when Seattle’s minimum wage went up to $11 an hour at the beginning of the month.

“I definitely recognize that having more money is important,” he says, “especially in a city as expensive as this one.”

Unfortunately, he’ll only enjoy that bigger paycheck for a few more months. In August, his boss is shutting down Z Pizza and putting him and his 11 co-workers out of work.

“Fortunately she keeps us in the loop, she didn’t just tell us last minute.”

Ritu Shah Burnham doesn’t want to go out of business, but says she can’t afford the city’s mandated wage hikes.

“I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself,” she says. “I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”

Like I’ve said many times before: the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat. Raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. Ritu Shah Burnham may have loved her business, or she may have hated it. But, regardless, she’s come to the conclusion it isn’t worth staying in business in Seattle. She isn’t the first, and other small businesses in other progressive cities have made the same choice.

And their workers have wound up looking for work.

What’s especially galling about this, aside from the hubris of thinking one can bend economic laws to one’s will, like a financial Lysenko, is that the progressive, social justice warrior-pols passing these laws don’t have to live with the immediate consequences: it’s not their profits that get hurt, not their business that becomes unsustainable, not their job that’s lost. They’re not the kid looking for his or her first job, only to learn the employer has cut back on hiring because he can’t afford as many employees as he used to. But these politicians do it while appealing to the god “Fairness,” assuming that it will all work out in the end with a wave of the hand, or that it will be the next guy’s problem. Whatever. They still get to hug themselves for being such wonderful people.

Their self-righteous arrogance is astounding and infuriating. It’s genuinely harming people


#RaiseTheWage – In which Seattle Leftists gets a needed lesson in economics

March 16, 2015
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

It must be nice to be a progressive; you never have to worry about the real-world consequences of your actions. Fighting for social justice? Great! Let’s raise that minimum wage in the interests of (all bow) fairness. Surely those petit bourgeois small business owners can afford it — they’re probably making more money than they should, anyway. It’s time to spread the wealth around. You, the city councilors and progressive voters of Seattle know better than any shop owner what he can afford to pay!

Strangest thing about choices: they have consequences.

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”

“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.

“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

I imagine reaction of residents must be like that of fans of a beloved local bookstore were shocked when it closed after The Special City raised its minimum wage — they cry “I had no idea!”.

Damn straight. It’s also called “magical thinking,” in which you get to do whatever you want with no blow-back. Then you wake up and realize it was all a dream.

Like I’ve written many times before, there are basic rules of economics our economically illiterate progressive compatriots need to hear. Again:

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

Do recall this mandated wage increase comes on top of any additional expenses required under Obamacare. No wonder owners in the thin-margin restaurant business are calling it quits!

Dan Mitchell calls it “Destroying Jobs with Innumerate Compassion.” Perfect.

Of course, this won’t stop the progressives who run the LA city council from making a similar mistake, here, because… magical thinking.

Via Rick Moran, who also quotes a great explanation from Reason about the connection between the value of labor and the minimum wage.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Seattle and the minimum wage.


San Francisco raises minimum wage, kills beloved local bookstore, residents shocked

February 8, 2015
Didn't pay attention

Didn’t pay attention

Call it a “teachable moment?”

Due to the new increased minimum wage law in San Francisco, a beloved bookstore and mainstay of the Mission District has been forced to close its doors for good.

The minimum wage for San Francisco workers, currently at $11.05 an hour, soars to $15 an hour in July 2018. The store’s projected labor costs, reported ABC7 News, impelled Borderlands Bookstore to write its final chapter.

The store owner had this to say:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018. Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.

But the best line came from one of the stunned customers:

“You know, I voted for the measure as well, the minimum wage measure,” customer Edward Vallecillo lamented. “It’s not something that I thought would affect certain specific small businesses. I feel sad.”

Evidently Mr. Vallecillo and the other voters of the Special City were asleep during their economics lessons — assuming that’s even taught anymore. Let’s review, shall we?

Labor is a cost, because the business owner has to provide wages and, often, benefits that cost him more money. When a government mandate increases that cost, the business owner has three choices: pass the cost along to the customer, who may decide it’s too much and stop shopping there; cut employee hours and stop hiring to save on labor costs, thus costing potential jobs and putting a burden on workers still employed; and, finally, just decide it’s not worth it anymore and close up shop. In the low-margin bookseller business, Borderlands’ owner chose the last course as the only one viable.

(Aside: It wouldn’t surprise me if one of the Leftists on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a bill to prevent owners from doing just that. Can’t let the Kulaks get away with acting as if they own their own property, after all.)

In a functioning, literate polity that teaches its young fundamental lessons of civics and economics, an informed electorate could have looked at that proposal and said, “Nah, that’s going too far.” Instead, we have voters who feel good about themselves  for voting themselves more consequence-free stuff, and then feel sad when the consequences arrive.

Maybe they’ll learn something from the experience.

Nah.

RELATED: This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the consequences of ill-thought policy regarding the minimum wage. Seattle voted a high minimum, and now businesses are considering leaving. Some companies are considering replacing now-expensive minimum-wage workers with computerized kiosks. Los Angeles wants to raise the minimum to $13.25. Can’t wait to see how many entry-level jobs are lost thanks to that, or how many low-skill young workers looking for their first job are priced out of the market because of it. More from Ron Radosh, and more posts on the minimum wage.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#RaiseTheWage: Seattle businesses push back against minimum wage increase

July 6, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

Rick Moran at PJMedia has an article up about an effort on the part of Seattle business owners to get a measure on the ballot that would roll back the city’s recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage to a more “reasonable” $12.50. You can go there to get the details (there are accusations of fraud in the petitions to get the measure on the ballot), but here is a portion in which a Seattle business owner describes the very real impact raising the minimum wage has on his and other businesses:

That favorite coffee shop that you go to? That great neighborhood restaurant? That store where you buy your books, pet food, art supplies, or clothes? Each of those businesses survives on around a 5 percent net profit margin. That means that at the end of the year, after all the expenses—the payroll, the supplies, the inventory, insurance, rent, etc.—we all will end up with only about 5 percent income in our pockets if we’re doing a half-decent job. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less—but you get the idea. This does not leave a small local business with much room to absorb even a small increase in costs, much less the 60 percent increase demanded by the well-meaning but ill-researched and biased reporters and neighbors involved in this discussion.

Here are some more boring facts:

Payroll is approximately 30 percent of my entire costs at Liberty, the bar I own (the average in this business seems to be 30 to 35 percent). If the minimum wage goes up to $12.50 an hour (a reasonable middle ground some have proposed), that would be an increase of 34 percent, which means just to stay even I’d have to raise prices 10 percent across the board—the labor’s percentage increase in total cost to operate Liberty.

If the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour, I’d have to raise my contribution to payroll by 18 percent. So my costs would have to rise by no less than 18 percent, just for payroll—and that’s before my vendors’ increases in costs have to be considered, which I believe will be around another 5 percent, and that’s before Liberty adds any profit.

So it’s not impossible to imagine that costs for business like mine in Seattle will go up by no less than 20 percent.

Those increases are way more than my income. Again, my profit is around 5 percent. And it’s not just me, that’s across the board—for restaurants, for bars, for clothing stores, for pet stores, for art supply stores—many of whom have set costs and are competing with online retail. This makes it very difficult for them to adjust their purchasing.

So, what are this business owner’s options? That’s his problem, not the Seattle city council’s.

Thomas Sowell has often observed that politicians almost never feel the economic consequences of the decisions they force on the rest of us. While they’re buying their way to reelection by handing out goodies and making themselves feel good by supposedly “fighting for the people,” someone else has to pay the cost — in this case, the businessman who takes less profit, the worker who gets fewer hours, or the consumer who pays higher prices.

I left a comment to Moran’s post and I want to share part of it here. It’s anecdotal, but I think it illustrates the very real effects of politicians thinking they can ignore the laws of economics:

A friend supervises minimum wage, hourly employees in an educational setting. Our minimum wage [in California] has just gone up to $9 per hour. She has told me that she knows for a fact her budget for hiring will not increase, so she has to cut employee hours and, perhaps, eliminate a couple of jobs. Now, someone explain to me again how this increase actually helped these workers? But it sure made the pols in Sacramento feel good about themselves.

Those employees are student workers, often from minority groups, who work to help pay their way through school. And they are very real victims of progressives’ “good intentions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Income Inequality and Guilt-Ridden Leftists

June 6, 2014

In other words, “You have been successful, and for your sins you will be punished!” And then the policies they advocate create the inequality they purport to hate. Genius.

International Liberty

Our leftist friends have decided that income inequality is a scourge that must be addressed.

That might be a noble goal if they were motivated by a desire to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

Based on their policy proposals, though, it appears that the main goal is to punish the so-called rich. And they’re so fixated on that objective, Margaret Thatcher pointed out, that they’re willing to make the poor worse off.

And what’s especially bizarre is that rich leftists are among the biggest cheerleaders for these policies. Heck, I’ve even debated some of these limousine liberals, as you can see here and here.

But maybe their feelings of self-loathing and guilt are justified. After all, it seems that statist policies are actually associated with higher degrees of income inequality.

Let’s see what Steve Moore and Rich Vedder discovered when they looked at evidence…

View original post 584 more words


It begins: SeaTac businesses add “living wage surcharge” to cover minimum wage

June 6, 2014

When discussing Seattle’s new, progressive —FAIR!!— $15 per hour minimum wage, I wrote that business owners had just a few choices in response:

Critics, on the other hand (and including your humble correspondent), argue that the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat: raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. 

Having seen some businesses hold off on hiring, while others moved out of Seattle, we now have an example of another option: pass the cost along to the consumer:

And just look at that sales tax, too: 10.9%. Add the “living wage charge” and…

Yep. This is going to be a very interesting experiment.

via Twitchy

UPDATE: Just had it pointed out to me that SeaTac is not Seattle. My mistake; I’m not that familiar with Washington. Still, it can’t be all that long before Seattle itself sees these “living wage surcharges.” Also fixed the headline.

via:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Seattle approves $15 minimum wage, higher unemployment

June 3, 2014
x

Seattle minimum wage proponent

I wrote about this last week, when it was still just a proposal, noting how some businesses were already slowing hiring and moving out of the city, and how even progressives were coming to have second thoughts.

Well, they did it:

Seattle’s city council on Monday unanimously approved an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the nation’s highest by far.

The increase was formally proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and his spokesman said he intends to sign the ordinance on Tuesday.

Washington already has the nation’s highest state-level minimum wage, at $9.32. That rate also applies to the city.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a gradual increase to $10.10, but so far to little effect.

The increase to $15 in Seattle will take place over several years based on a scale that considers the size of and benefits offered by an employer. It will apply first to many large businesses in 2017 and then to all businesses by 2021.

The first increase, on April 1, 2015, brings the minimum wage to $10 for some businesses and $11 for others.

While the law phases in increases starting only with “large businesses,” that designation includes franchises. In other words, if you’re a franchisee with only a couple of Taco Bells, you’re still considered a large employer because you’re part of a large chain; even though your revenue only comes from two locations, you’re still on the hook for $15 per hour starting in 2017. You’re welcome.

This is going to be a good experiment (and, dare I say it? A “teachable moment?”) for several reasons. Advocates of raising the wage say it’s only fair, that minimum wage earners aren’t paid enough to live on, and that the costs to society will be minimal as businesses adjust. And there is some little evidence for the latter, as we have indeed learned to live with the costs previous minimum wage increases. (Whether those wage increases have been worth the costs, however, is another argument for another time.) Advocates in Seattle argue that raising the wage will help around 100,000 people.

Critics, on the other hand (and including your humble correspondent), argue that the laws of economics cannot be repealed by legislative fiat: raise the cost of labor, and businesses will be faced with a choice from among four options — pass the costs on to the consumer; reduce labor costs by cutting hours or whole jobs; eat the costs and accept lower profits; or cease doing business in that jurisdiction, either by moving or closing shop. We’ve already seen in the Seattle case that some businesses are moving to nearby towns that have not raised their wage. And, here in California, where the wage was recently raised to $9 per our and there is a proposal to raise it statewide to $13, some businesses are closing, choosing to put their capital to work where they can get a better return on investment. In each case, these are jobs lost.

Critics also maintain that raising the cost of labor gradually prices out the unskilled, such as teens looking for their first jobs, where they can acquire valuable skills and habits for later, better-paying work. A very interesting piece at AEI (h/t Andrew Garland in the Sister Toldjah comments section) argues for this very point by examining the effects on teen hiring as the minimum wage rose 41% between 2007 and 2009:

And that’s exactly what happened when the minimum wage rose by 41% between 2007 and 2009 – it had a disastrous effect on teenagers. The jobless rate for 16-19 year olds increased by ten percentage points, from about 16% in 2007 to more than 26% in 2009.  Of course, the overall US jobless rate was increasing at the same time, from about 5% to 10%. Therefore, the graph attempts to better isolate the effects of the minimum wage increases between 2007 and 2009 on teenagers by plotting the difference between the teenage jobless rate and the overall jobless rate, i.e. “excess teen unemployment,” and the minimum wage.

During the 2002-2007 period when the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour, teenage unemployment exceeded the national jobless rate by about 11% on average. Each of the three minimum wage increases was accompanied by a 2 percentage point increase in the amount that the teenage jobless rate exceeded the overall rate, from 11 to 13% after the 2007 increase from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour, from 13% to 15% following the second hike to $6.55 per hour, and from 15% to 17% following the last increase to $7.25. The 17.5% “excess teen unemployment” in October 2009 was the highest on record, going back to at least 1972, and was almost 5 percent higher than the peak teen jobless rate gap following the last recession (12.7% in June 2003).

Bottom Line: Artificially raising wages for unskilled workers reduces the demand for those workers at the same time that it increases the number of unskilled workers looking for work, which results in an excess supply of unskilled workers. Period. And another term for an “excess supply of unskilled workers” is an “increase in the teenage jobless rate.”

It will be interesting and edifying how Seattle’s experiment in progressive labor law plays out. I suspect it won’t have nearly the benefit that advocates like Seattle Mayor Murray or California State Senator Leno predict.

And it’s a shame others have to suffer for their hubris.

RELATED: This Center for Freedom and Prosperity video provides a good overview of why minimum wage laws are job killers.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


California Senate passes $13 minimum wage, jobs flee in terror

June 1, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least they raised the minimum wage!”

Perhaps they didn’t want to be left behind by their progressive friends in Seattle, but the California State Senate last Wednesday passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2017. From the legislative analyst’s summary:

SB 935, as amended, Leno. Minimum wage: annual adjustment.

Existing law requires that, on and after July 1, 2014, the minimum wage for all industries be not less than $9 per hour. Existing law further increases the minimum wage, on and after January 1, 2016, to not less than $10 per hour.

This bill would increase the minimum wage, on and after January 1, 2015, to not less than $11 per hour, on and after January 1, 2016, to not less than $12 per hour, and on and after January 1, 2017, to not less than $13 per hour. The bill would require the automatic adjustment of the minimum wage annually thereafter, to maintain employee purchasing power diminished by the rate of inflation during the previous year. The adjustment would be calculated using the California Consumer Price Index, as specified. The bill would prohibit the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) from reducing the minimum wage and from adjusting the minimum wage if the average percentage of inflation for the previous year was negative. The bill would require the IWC to publicize the automatically adjusted minimum wage.

The bill would provide that its provisions not be construed to preclude the IWC from increasing the minimum wage to an amount greater than the calculation would provide or to preclude or supersede an increase of the minimum wage that is greater than the state minimum wage by any local government or tribal government.
The bill would apply to all industries, including public and private employment.

(h/t California Political Review)

“Leno” is Senator Mark Leno, whose district includes, naturally, San Francisco. You can kind of guess his politics. (He also backed a bill allowing children to have more than two parents. Yes, you read that right.) He’s also a prime example of Thomas Sowell’s observation about politicians who don’t have to suffer the consequences of decisions they impose on others. In this case, causing the cost of labor to skyrocket forces business owners to decide whether to pass on the cost to consumers, cut workers’ hours or whole jobs, or go out of business. As the head of CKE Restaurants told CNBC, people are doing all three:

CKE Restaurants’ roots began in California roughly seven decades ago, but you won’t see the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s expanding there much anymore.

What’s causing what company CEO Andy Puzder describes as “very little growth” in the state?

In part it’s because “the minimum wage is so high so it’s harder to come up with profitable business models,” Puzder said in an interview. The state’s minimum wage is set to rise to $9 in July, making it among the nation’s highest, and $10 by January 2016.

In cities in other states where the minimum wage has gone up considerably, Puzder said “franchisees are closing locations” after riding out lease expirations.

If the federal minimum hourly pay shoots up to $10.10 from the current $7.25—as many lawmakers and President Barack Obama are advocating—Puzder predicts fewer entry-level jobs will be created. If this happens, CKE would also create fewer positions, he forecast.

A recent nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office study also predicted mass job losses, estimating that a hike to $10.10 could result in a loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016, even as it lifted many above the poverty line.

(h/t California Political Review)

For some reason, I don’t think those who lose their jobs because of the wage increase will see themselves as “lifted out of poverty.”

Minimum-wage jobs are not meant to be lifelong careers. For people just entering the labor market, they’re ways to acquire skills needed to move on to better-paying jobs. For others, they’re a means to bring in additional, supplementary income into the household. The pro-increase arguments distort facts and wrap them in myth, all to disguise what is really a wealth redistribution program.

CKE’s Puzder goes on to relate how, when minimum wage increases are combined with the added expenses imposed by Obamacare, franchisees have chosen not to open new restaurants or have even closed locations, meaning these are jobs lost. But they do it because they can get a better return on their investment money elsewhere, such as by putting it in bonds.

It’s called economic common sense, something Senator Leno and his colleagues are woefully lacking in.

PS: SB 935 has now gone to the Assembly, and I will be shocked if it doesn’t pass. It’s frightening to think we have to rely on Governor Brown to be the sane one in the room and veto this bill when it shows up on his desk.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Seattle: $15 minimum wage already costing jobs

May 28, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

And it’s not even in effect, yet.

But, it’s not surprising. Business managers have to plan for the future, and a looming huge increase in their labor cost will force many to rethink how they do business in Seattle, if they continue to do business there at all. Writing for the free-market Washington Policy Center, Erin Shannon reports on how small businesses are planning to cut back on hiring, delaying expansion, or moving out of the city to deal with the new wage law. Most striking, though, is the account of one business owner who supported the law, but now thinks she may have made a mistake:

One of those business owners is a well-known and active supporter of “progressive” labor policies, including a higher minimum wage. Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale, initially supported a $15 minimum wage. But now Hall admits the proposed policy is, “keeping me up at night like nothing ever has.”

While Hall has serious concerns with Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage over seven years with a temporary tip credit, her biggest fear is if voters approve the radical charter amendment sponsored by the group 15Now. The charter amendment would force all large employers to begin paying $15 in 2015, and would give small business owners just three years to acclimate to the high wage. And the 15Now proposal would not allow for any tip credit.

If the charter amendment passes, Hall says she would be forced to close half of her seven locations and lay off 50 of her 100 workers.

But beyond the differences between Mayor Murray’s proposal or the more aggressive 15Now proposal, Hall says she now has “serious second thoughts” about a $15 minimum wage in general, especially since Seattle would be “going it alone” with a wage that is significantly higher than any other minimum wage in the nation.

Hall’s second thoughts about a $15 minimum wage have led to second thoughts about expanding her business. She was set to open a new business in Seattle this year, but has tabled the plan until after voters have their say on the charter amendment in the November election. Hall says if she considers any new locations before then, they will be outside the city limits.

In other words, when progressivism meets economic reality, guess which wins? You would think a successful businesswoman like Hall would have seen this coming. Maybe she thought she’d get a waiver from Obama.

And pay special attention to her comment about “going it alone.” As minimum wage increases are applied and then have the same effect in various places, there will be more and more calls from the fairness crowd to apply these laws statewide and even nationwide, to make sure business owners can’t just move to a friendlier jurisdiction, which would be “unfair.” The minimum wage thus becomes a wedge issue in an attack on local control, federalism, and jurisdictional competition, things progressive just hate, because their favored policies usually fail.

Meanwhile, I want to thank Seattle for volunteering to be a case study on the foolishness of government control of wages.

via Adrian Moore

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The racist origins of the minimum wage

May 20, 2014
Chattanooga VW workers, per MSNBC

Also supported a minimum wage

I came across an interesting blog post from a few weeks ago while trolling the news this morning for something interesting. Now, we all know about the racist history of the Democratic Party: the defense of slavery, even inciting a civil war to preserve it; the creation of terrorist organizations, such as the KKK, in order to keep Blacks from exercising their rights as free citizens; and the creation of Jim Crow, which created a legal framework for Blacks’ oppression that lasted into the 1960s.

But did you know the minimum wage, the distraction du jour for Democrats anxious to talk about anything other than Obamacare’s failures, itself had its roots in minority oppression? Here’s an excerpt from a short piece in Forbes by Carrie Sheffield:

The business-friendly National Center for Policy Analysis points out “the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, requiring ‘prevailing’ wages on federally assisted construction projects, was supported by the idea that it would keep contractors from using ‘cheap colored labor’ to underbid contractors using white labor.”

African-American economist Thomas Sowell with Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution gives an uncomfortable historical primer behind minimum wage laws:

“In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.

A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to “protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese” who were willing to work for less.

In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.”

It is a plain-as-day fact that raising the cost of labor will force a business to do one of four things:

  • Go out of business
  • Accept lower profits
  • Raise prices for the consumer
  • Or cut employee hours or reduce the number of jobs to compensate for higher costs.

The first two are very unlikely to happen, which leaves passing on the cost to the consumer or cutting back on labor. And if the owners decide to cut back on labor, guess whose hours get the ax first? That’s right, it’s most likely the lower or unskilled employee, because it makes less sense to pay them the higher wage when you have more skilled employees who give more value in return for their wages. Now, just who makes up a large percentage of that at-risk labor force? That’s right: young Blacks.

The next time you encounter some Lefty blathering about raising the minimum wage, ask them why they have it in for young people and Blacks.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama minimum wage edict leads to job losses at military bases

April 29, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we won the election! Obama!!”

Democrats and their Leftist allies are desperate to find any issue to run on in the coming elections, other than Obamacare. One of their tactics has been to try to gin up class warfare based on raising the minimum wage. They argue that it will help the poor, raise living standards, and, of course, be more “fair.” Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, on the other hand, contend that increasing the cost of labor will only mean higher prices to the consumer, fewer jobs for the marginally skilled, and be particularly harmful to minorities. This video is a good example of how minimum wage laws kill jobs.

Needless to say, I come down on the side of those opposed to the Democrats’ demands for a minimum wage increase. But honest, intelligent people (1) can reasonably disagree.  To help solve this disagreement, a real-world, real-time example would be nice. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), we have one. As Byron York reports in The Washington Examiner, President Obama’s edict raising the minimum wage for federal contract employees on military bases is leading to the closure of fast-food restaurants on those bases, thus costing jobs:

Obama’s order does not take effect until January 1, 2015. But there are signs it is already having an effect — and it is not what the president and his party said it would be.

In late March, the publication Military Times reported that three McDonald’s fast-food restaurants, plus one other lesser-known food outlet, will soon close at Navy bases, while other national-name chains have “asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast-food restaurants at two other installations.”

Military Times quoted sources saying the closures are related to the coming mandatory wage increases, with one source saying they are “the tip of the iceberg.”

And increasing the minimum wage isn’t the only way Washington is increasing the cost of labor:

The administration is making it very expensive to do business on military bases, and not just because of the minimum wage. Under federal contracting law, some businesses operating on military installations must also pay their workers something called a health and welfare payment, which last year was $2.56 an hour but which the administration has now raised to $3.81 an hour.

In the past, fast-food employers did not have to pay the health and welfare payment, but last fall the Obama Labor Department ruled that they must. So add $3.81 per hour, per employee to the employers’ cost. And then add Obama’s $2.85 an hour increase in the minimum wage. Together, employers are looking at paying $6.66 (2) more per hour, per employee. That’s a back-breaking burden. (Just for good measure, the administration also demanded such employers provide paid holidays and vacation time.)

As I wrote above, the natural business response to this is to either raise prices for the consumer, or cut back on employee hours — or cut jobs altogether. Well, guess what? York reports that military contracts do not allow the businesses to raise their prices above what’s common in the outside community. So, even though Obama is raising wages well above the prevailing standard, employers are forbidden to recoup their costs. What does that leave?

Closing the business altogether.

If there’s no chance for profit, why stay open? When you add up the numbers for all four major services, we’re looking at potentially 10,000 jobs going up in smoke. Not to mention the ripple effect in the outside communities.

Here we have a current, ongoing example of how raising the minimum wage harms people by killing jobs. (3) How then, is the Democratic proposal a good idea?

I’m waiting. smiley well I'm waiting

 

Footnote:
(1) Thus excluding Democratic pols and activists.
(2) How fitting.
(3) Yes, military contract law made the situation worse by forbidding compensatory price increases. So, increasing costs for the consumer –including minimum wage earners!– is a good thing? And what’s to say the Obama administration, if they got their way on the minimum wage, wouldn’t try to extend price controls when the inevitable complaints arose? We are talking dyed-in-the-wool statists, after all. One bad policy, raising the minimum wage, inevitably leads to more bad policy. Just look at the history to-date of Obamacare.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)