House Republicans Recognize Need For $15 Wage — But Refuse To Mandate It
A House Republican group — specifically, the Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee — tweeted Friday acknowledging a $15 wage as a need for workers. However, they still refuse to mandate a wage increase, instead claiming that the free market will do that on its own.
As businesses try to reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns, they’re finding that there’s a shortage of employees available for the offered wages. The reasons for this are hotly debated, but as Forbes points out, wages are a serious factor.
“The clearest sign yet that there are no widespread labor shortages comes from data on wage growth. If companies cannot hire people because there is a worker shortage, it would only be a shortage at current wages. There are obviously a lot of people out of the labor market or unemployed, many of whom would be willing to work at higher wages. Higher wages will entice workers, who are currently out of the labor force, to return to work since they can more easily pay for childcare, for example. Wage growth then should accelerate if employers are really facing worker shortages. But wage growth in general has slowed, in part because more low-wage workers are being rehired and in part because employers are not raising wages.”
In fact, several stories have circulated about companies that couldn’t find workers, raised their offered wage, and suddenly had resumes pouring in. MSNBC covered one such story, about an ice cream parlor that was “flooded with job applications” after raising their starting wage to $15, a move the owner says has not hurt their bottom line, despite an endless stream of claims in right-wing media and politics that businesses would be forced to close if they paid a living wage.
The House Committee of Labor and Education, chaired by Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott, tweeted this story, pointing out that employees want to work when they make enough to live.
It’s almost like if you pay workers a living wage, they want to work… https://t.co/6DxJ3OJ9Le
— Committee on Education & Labor (@EdLaborCmte) May 19, 2021
However, the Republican House Labor & Ed members didn’t like that assessment and tweeted back that this story was proof that the free market will provide for workers’ needs without government interference if allowed to do so.
It's almost like if you let the free market work, companies will meet workers' needs without government interference… https://t.co/UlQRXHL9OU
— House Ed & Labor Republicans (@EdLaborGOP) May 21, 2021
The backlash was immediate and expected, from voters, workers, and social media users who pointed out several salient facts, including that this didn’t happen without government action, that the power to refuse a job isn’t always in an employee’s hands, and that other regulations have been necessary to protect workers, too.
FACT CHECK: FALSE
▫️7 million Americans were working & poor in 2018.
▫️In 2019, women working full-time took home just 82% of what men did.
▫️Black people are paid 26.5% less than white people.
The free market doesn’t work. It’s sexist, racist, & greedy. https://t.co/3MREjK50u1
— Wesley Whistle (@WesleyWhistle) May 21, 2021
This is obviously not true as many minimum and low wage workers with full-time jobs can’t meet their basic needs and rely on federal health care and food assistance. We’re subsidizing corporate greed. https://t.co/rfrVukixCD
— Wade's world (@TheRealWokeBro) May 21, 2021
Companies haven't in 50 years. They need the people to tell our government to raise wages so we have a livable working wage.
— thegopneedsfacts (@thegopneedsfac2) May 21, 2021
The free market has not kept up with inflation and workers cannot survive with the low wages being paid. Wages have been stagnant for decades for the working poor who live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a $500 emergency.
— CyberWriter (@writer_cyber) May 21, 2021
Yeah, that's why we never had to impliment child labor laws…oh wait…
— The Warrior (@TheWarrior1776) May 21, 2021
How ludicrous! Was Amazon meeting their worker’s needs when they were applying for Welfare and food stamps? The federal govt won’t meet the needs of the lowest ranking service members because their families qualify for food stamps too. So peddle it elsewhere. https://t.co/MvxeweHfoJ
— susancampg (@susancampg) May 21, 2021
Meanwhile, right-wing politicians and pundits continue to complain that increased unemployment payments, stimulus checks, and other social safety nets are permitting workers to make choices about returning to their jobs. Business Insider recently reported on 16 Republican governors who want to stop unemployment checks, so that people will return to work.
To put that clearly, these Republicans believe that receiving money (intervention) from the government enabled workers to stand up to employers and insist on a living wage (and they want to put a stop to it). That seems to clash with the notion that the “free market” can be counted on to raise wages just because it’s a need (and, in fact, a need acknowledged as a need in the same tweet).