Unions were the driving force behind the wage hike to $15 per hour authorized by the Los AngelesCity Council. They were the ones who argued against the private sector, who claimed it would be very costly, and those who defended the increase that would allow workers to live with dignity. That is why it is surprising that the same labor organization has asked to be exempted from this obligation in order to be able to negotiate compensation agreements below minimum wage.
Union leaders rightly note that this exception is nothing new; it is included in ordinances that increase the minimum wage in other cities. They even ensure that federal law is on their side. The surprise for them is that something they consider normal has sparked such controversy. That was a poor political calculation.
One of the arguments repeated constantly was that the increase was for all workers, that it was unacceptable and intolerable for anyone—even a waiter earning tips—to fall below this level of compensation. The wage increase was a reasonable amount: in response to the business sector that claimed that it was too high, labor noted that itgave dignity to the workers’ value and life.
Thus, the surprise and indignation. Most people are unaware of the details of collective bargaining, but they do know what minimum wage for all means, with no one left behind. The argument that the union needs the “freedom” to negotiate everything, without limitations, is reasonable from their viewpoint, but it sounds hypocritical on the street after all that was said in the campaign for the raise.
Exceptions to minimum wage are not looked upon kindly, and even less so when it is the unions who want the freedom to have their members earn less—regardless of the underlying reasons. The City Council felt the political discontent and properlyset aside the county labor federation’s request for further study.
The promise of $15 per hour is for all. That is the expectation, and that is the way it should be.