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EDITORIAL: Another progressive utopia suffers with higher wage mandate

The predictable results continue when it comes to the ongoing experiment in which elected officials outlaw jobs that, in the view of “progressive” activists, offer substandard compensation. Today, that would include positions paying less than $15 an hour. Tomorrow, that figure could be $20 or $25. Why not go for $50?

The nation’s largest laboratory for such research is New York City, where officials in December imposed a $15 minimum hourly wage for all businesses with 11 or more employees. Smaller enterprises will be forced to comply by the beginning of next year. It hasn’t taken long for trends to emerge.

New York City “business leaders and owners,” The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, “say the increased labor costs have forced them to cut staff, eliminate work shifts and raise prices.” Restaurants and eateries have been particularly hard hit, but other business owners are also suffering.

“There’s absolutely no benefit to being in the retail business in New York,” the owner of a Manhattan book store told the Journal. The president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce told the publication that there has been a noticeable increase in businesses going under since the wage mandate. “They’re cutting their staff. They’re cutting their hours,” he said. “They’re shutting down.”

All this tracks with Seattle’s experience. After preening city officials jacked up the minimum wage in 2017, University of Washington researchers found that employers cut hours for many employees, leaving them with lower wages. Meanwhile, inexperienced and low-skilled workers now have fewer job opportunities.

But like Charlie Brown’s forlorn demand to Schroeder to “tell your statistics to shut up,” leftist proponents of central planning and arbitrarily higher wage floors insist all is well. Anthony Advincula, public affairs officer for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a leftist advocacy group, told the Journal, “This is not just a business issue, this is a race, gender and pay-equity issue.”

In other words, the casualties of economically illiterate “social justice” initiatives — including workers who lose their jobs or see their hours cut due to large and sudden minimum wage hikes — should simply sit down and shut up for the cause of collectivism. Would it be a giant leap to surmise that Mr. Advincula — who in a March op-ed for CityLimits.org compared tipping to slavery — has never met a payroll?

Gov. Steve Sisolak in June signed a measure increasing Nevada’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024, a more modest approach giving state businesses time to plan and adjust. Expect him to be under increasing pressure from the left next session to impose a $15 standard immediately. But as many low-skilled workers in New York and Seattle can attest, outlawing more and more jobs is hardly a rational recipe for fighting poverty.

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