Increasing the minimum wage has long been a popular tactic for liberals in the political sphere seeking “fairness” for workers. To the casual observer, the idea that someone should earn a so-called “fair wage” appeals to their moral conscience without immediately conjuring up the economic impact of such actions on a large scale.
While there has recently been a national debate about raising the current federal minimum wage from $7.25, Congress has rebuffed those efforts, based largely on evidence from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that 500,000 workers would lose their jobs, wiping out any improvement in wage levels for those entry-level workers who remain in the workforce. In response, an increasing number of states and cities are being pressured by liberal activists to raise their own minimum wage.
Most localities have passed new wages based on economic and cost of living conditions. However, in some places, a unique and potentially damaging characteristic of some wage proposals has a trend to include a provision requiring families in local communities who own franchises to pay wages higher and faster than those paid by non-franchise businesses.
Take the city of Seattle or the state of New York for instance. Each passed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, both discriminatory in their own way. In Seattle, the legislation considers independently operated franchisees as ‘large employers’ because they contract with a brand, and subsequently forces them to implement the increase faster than local, non-franchise businesses. Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Cuomo unilaterally targeted quick service restaurants through a “Fast Food Wage Board” which consisted of no small business owner representation. This wage increase required those families who operate a local restaurant with 30 or more locations nationally to pay a $15 minimum wage, and leaving other businesses at the more modest $9 state-wide minimum wage.
Perhaps the most perplexing notion in both cases is that wages were raised under the auspices of fairness. What could possibly be fair about requiring one family who owns a small business to implement a wage at a faster pace than another, or leaving those employees who DON’T work for these businesses at a lower rate.
To address the impact of this new trend in policymaking, new research from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) overwhelming disproves the notion that franchise businesses could absorb an increase in the minimum wage easier than non-franchise businesses. According to the study, franchise businesses would be impacted more, with over two-thirds of franchise small business owners saying that they would be forced to reduce staff or reduce hours to compensate, compared to roughly half of non-franchise businesses. Additionally, 54 percent of franchisees said they would likely use more automation, compared to just 37 percent of non-franchise businesses.
“This study confirms that local franchise businesses, who form the fabric of their communities, should not be unfairly targeted for higher labor costs than non-franchise businesses,” said IFA Director of State Government Relations and Public Policy Jeff Hanscom. “Arbitrarily forcing higher labor costs on franchise small businesses will reduce employment for those who need it most, while stripping neighbors of their ability to own a small business.”
As policymakers around the country continue to face pressure from local activists seeking to raise the minimum wage to exorbitant levels, it is clear they should avoid choosing winners and losers.