Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

CUF in the Wall Street Journal: Labor and the Minimum Wage

Turn to page A13 of the Wall Street Journal this morning, and you’ll find our Executive Director Richard Berman alerting readers of the country’s highest-circulation newspaper to our research into union collective bargaining agreements and the minimum wage clauses that can be found in them.

Berman writes:

The labor contracts that we examined used a variety of methods to trigger the increases. The two most popular formulas were setting baseline union wages as a percentage above the state or federal minimum wage or mandating a flat wage premium above the minimum wage.

Other union contracts stipulate that, following a minimum-wage increase, the union and the employer reopen wage talks. The negotiations could pressure employers and unions to hammer out a new contract, regardless of how long their existing contracts last. Presumably the reopened negotiations could also prompt an employer’s demand for union givebacks, but that possibility does not seem to scare the unions.

Our Executive Director reminds us that some unions are actually willing to be open about this increase-without-negotiation clause. Just last week, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) practically bragged about it.

While ranting against Berman’s article, Wade Rathkeof ACORN infamy, admits that United Labor Unions Local 100 also includes the minimum wage provisions in many of its contracts:

Berman’s case seems to be based on some UFCW contracts that have what Local 100 also called “minimum wage” clauses in our janitorial, food service, nursing home, and community home contracts.  Such clauses would either mandate a contract re-opener for any mandatory wage adjustment or would have language expressly stating that wages automatically had to be raised the same dollar amount over any such increase whether city, state, or federal to the wage base.  I’m pleased to see that the UFCW uses the same strategy.  And, once again I have to ask, why would anyone assume differently? 

It turns out that organized labor will gladly say that its contracts are costly to employers—it just won’t bother telling rank-and-file members that it means fewer jobs down the road.

Categories: Center for Union FactsNewsUFCW