How ALEC Plans to Undo Minimum Wage Increases in 2015

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How ALEC Plans to Undo Minimum Wage Increases in 2015

Nina Liss-Schultz

The American Legislative Exchange Council laid out its blueprint for 2015 at its annual meeting in early December, making public a plan that includes attacks on labor unions, paid sick leave, and minimum wage increases that have proven popular across the political spectrum.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) laid out its blueprint for 2015 at its annual meeting in early December, making public a plan that includes attacks on labor unions, paid sick leave, and minimum wage increases that have proven popular across the political spectrum.

Despite the GOP gains in both Congress and statehouses across the country, the midterm elections saw the passage of several progressive measures fought for years by Republicans. Among those measures were several state and local minimum wage increases.

ALEC is the controversial right-wing lobbying group that has crafted wide-ranging legislation proposed and enacted by conservative legislatures across the country. And contrary to the group’s charge that it doesn’t get involved in so-called social political issues, ALEC has been deeply involved in blocking federal and state funding for abortion care.

Voters in 10 states—including deep-red states South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska, and Nebraska—approved minimum wage increases on Election Day, as did many cities across the country. For example, voters in San Francisco approved a $15 minimum wage; the city will slowly increases its minimum wage until it meets that goal.

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Half of those who responded to a March poll said they would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supported a minimum wage increase, according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey. A Public Policy Polling survey released in October showed that overwhelming majorities over voters in conservative states such as North Carolina, Iowa, and Louisiana supported a wage increase.

Those new wage measures will likely get legislative push back in 2015, as ALEC teams up with Republican-controlled state and local governments to push its corporate-driven agenda. At the group’s States & Nation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., ALEC officials included a presentation on “Minimum Wage Preemption Policies,” among other subjects discussed in its Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force meetings.

ALEC, in a publication made available on its website, charged that states “considering raising their minimum wage risk alienating business and harming their citizens” because such wage raises “artificially” increase the price of food and other goods. The U.S. Labor Department has debunked this charge, along with a variety of other talking points used to combat minimum wage hikes.

ALEC has long prioritized anti-minimum wage laws that the group says harm businesses’ bottom line.

The Center for Media and Democracy recently published a “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act,” from a 2001 meeting like the one ALEC held this month. That legislative template says it will repeal “any local ‘living wage’ mandates, ordinances or laws enacted by political subdivisions of the state. It also prohibits political subdivisions from enacting laws establishing ‘living wage’ mandates on private businesses, including those businesses that have service contracts with and/or receive financial assistance from such political subdivisions of state government.”

The organization produced a “Starting Minimum Wage Repeal Act” in 1996, in which ALEC found that “starting wage laws represent an unfunded mandate on business by the government, and disproportionately make it difficult for small business—the engine of job creation—to hire new employees due to artificially high wage rates.”

ALEC has faced a kind of corporate exodus this year. Many of the group’s high-profile partners have severed ties and publicly lambasted the group. In September, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt announced that the company was leaving ALEC, saying that the right-wing coalition had been “lying’” about climate change.

Since Google’s decision, a handful of other corporations have left, including Yahoo!, Yelp, and AOL.

Minimum wage laws were only one of many topics discussed at the ALEC meeting in December. Other issues included a paid sick days prevention bill, a “Medicaid Anti-Crowd-Out Act,” which would prevent low-income people from enrolling in Medicaid if they can receive health insurance through an employer, and a continued discussion on how to block climate change legislation.