Washington Examiner, by Ashley Pratte
Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that his labor commissioner would “impanel a Wage Board to recommend what adequate wages should be” in the fast food industry. The Democrat followed up with an error-laden op-ed in the New York Times, targeting the quick service industry as the latest patient in need of government intervention.
Cuomo more or less ignored all arguments in favor of letting the market set fast-food wages — that the industry gives millions of young workers an opportunity to enter the job market; that the service industry provides a career path to countless workers who may not have advanced degrees or skills training.
Cuomo seemed considerably more interested in keeping pace with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been traveling to Iowa lately, and who on a recent visit to Washington, D.C., rolled out his own progressive agenda that made even President Obama and fellow Democrats roll their eyes.
Now that Cuomo’s wage board appointees have been announced, it seems nothing less than preordained that it will serve the ends of the arbitrary minimum-wage-increase campaign waged against the fast food industry by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). After all, the SEIU has invested nearly $50 million over the last two years in the “Fight for 15” effort (for a $15 per hour minimum wage) with the ultimate goal of organizing fast food workers. The majority of that huge sum was directed to union-affiliated “workers organizing committees” which then funneled the money towards worker centers leading the faux-grassroots campaign.
So it should come as no surprise that the SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, Mike Fishman, will sit on the panel, representing labor’s interests in the matter. Fishman has been a union leader for more than 30 years and was elected four times as president of SEIU Local 32BJ, the largest private-sector union in New York.
Fishman’s appointment may not be surprising, but it does show the remarkably close relationship between labor and left-leaning elected officials. The SEIU has skin in this game. If it succeeds, then thousands of fast-food workers will pay millions in dues directly to SEIU coffers. Were the wage panel anything but a political theatrical device whose outcome is preordained anyway, Fishman’s seat on it might seem like an outrage.
Fishman will be joined on the wage board by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, supposedly there to represent the public interest. Like Fishman, he is a longtime political confidante of Cuomo, who stood alongside the governor when he traveled to Buffalo to call for the minimum wage to be raised to $10.50. Brown will hold either the stamp or the ink pad when the wage board rubberstamps Cuomo’s wage hike.
“Fight for 15” has already announced actions in Albany, Buffalo, New York City and Rochester to coincide with upcoming wage board hearings. The SEIU, it seems, will have the remarkable luck of sitting on both sides of the table at all wage board meetings.
Business leaders have the cards stacked against them in fighting the labor-backed push to hike the minimum wage to an amount that makes sense to no one else but union bean counters. That’s the way things go when an outcome is preordained for some specific interest’s benefit.
Ashley Pratte is a senior adviser for Worker Center Watch.