The ‘Smoking Gun’ Emails That Show Advocates, Academics Coordinated To Boost $15

Original Article:

  • Author: Michael Saltsman

  • Publication Date: July 2017

  • Newspaper: Forbes

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

The evidence is in, and it’s not pretty.

This week, the City of Seattle provided a tranche of email records that my organization requested, related to its pro-$15 coordination with a research team at the University of California-Berkeley. (The back-story, for those who are not acquainted with the controversy over a University of Washington report on the city’s $15 minimum wage experiment, is available here.)

Interested parties can download the entire email dump and relevant document attachments here.

The email trail provides conclusive proof of the close coordination between the Berkeley research team, the Seattle Mayor’s office, and the PR firm promoting the Fight for $15.

Takeaways from the email trail include:

  • The Seattle Mayor’s Office requested that Berkeley omit any mention of the forthcoming University of Washington report from its write-up. The original write-up of the Berkeley paper (available in the document dump) included a section critiquing the forthcoming University of Washington report. The Mayor’s office requested that Reich remove it from the report and press materials, and didn’t mince words on the reasoning: “Don’t want your positive news to serve as a teaser for the UW study.”  Reich later responded: “I am convinced. Here’s an improved version of the release.”
  • The press release for the Berkeley study was written by the same PR firm (and same PR executive) used by the Fight for $15. Economist Michael Reich sent an already-drafted press release to Berkeley’s press shop and the Seattle Mayor’s office. This release was authored by Daniel Massey of the PR firm BerlinRosen, who also handles media and has acted as a spokesperson for the Fight for $15. Reich also looped in Paul Sonn from the union-supported, pro-$15 National Employment Law Project (NELP) for his feedback. (The Berkeley team has closely coordinated with Sonn and NELP on past minimum wage testimony and media work.)
  • Michael Reich and the Berkeley team rushed their work to meet a political timeline set by the Mayor’s office. Reich initially sent his report to the Seattle Mayor’s office on Sunday, June 18th, saying “Hope it’s in time for your Tuesday [minimum wage] event.” Reich explained in his initial email to the Berkeley press shop: “Sorry for the extremely short notice. I’ve been working morning to evening every one of the past seven days to complete this. The timetable moved up over the weekend.”

It’s clear that we’ve only scratched the surface of the coordination between Berkeley and the Mayor’s office; my organization’s records request covered the entire time period starting in January of this year, and we’ve only been sent a sample of emails from one month in that time period. But the documents thus far only further confirm the sordid story suggested by the original Seattle Weekly headline: The City Knew The Bad Minimum Wage Report Was Coming Out, So It Called Up Berkeley.