Who’s Actually Behind These Minimum-Wage Ballot Measures?
Author: Samantha Summers
Publication Date: October 2018
Newspaper: Investor's Business Daily
Topics: Living Wage
Voters in Missouri and Arkansas will head to the polls this November to vote on whether to raise the minimum wage in those states.
The ballot measures are the handiwork of seemingly grassroots organizations “Arkansas for a Fair Wage” and “Raise Up Missouri.” However, a closer look reveals that each initiative’s main supporters aren’t local residents, but rather deep-pocketed national labor unions and special interest groups.
Consider Missouri’s campaign, “Raise Up Missouri” which pushes for a 52% increase in the state’s minimum wage. A deeper dive into the campaign’s finance reports show that nearly $4.5 million (87%) of Raise Up Missouri’s funding is from out of state groups and unions. In Arkansas, a similar dynamic applies: 99% of the funding for the state’s ballot measure comes from out of state.
Who’s writing the checks? The biggest donor is a Washington, D.C., based 501(c) 4 called the Sixteen Thirty Fund. The Fund made news earlier this fall when it sent a $3 million dollar check to the Missouri wage campaign, bringing total contributions to over $4 million dollars. (The Sixteen Thirty Fund has also contributed $350,000 to “Arkansas for a Fair Wage,” and contributed a total of over $2.1 million for a potential ballot measure in Michigan.)
It’s difficult to know who’s funding the Fund; donations to the Sixteen Thirty Fund are anonymous. However, the Washington Free Beacon reported last year that the Fund received over $860,000 from four labor unions between 2015 and 2016, and federal filings show that this number rose to $2.24 million in 2017.
Labor groups have also funded surrogates to get active in these states. In August, the New York-based National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a study examining Missouri’s proposed $12 minimum wage, which falsely claimed, “economists overwhelmingly conclude that one can increase the minimum wage without reducing employment.” Not surprisingly, NELP’s funding reveals financial support from unions that have also donated directly to “Raise Up Missouri.” NELP has also directly contributed $145,000 to “Raise Up Missouri.”
This kind of funding activity raises the question: Why would groups based in New York and DC want to invest in wage campaigns in Arkansas and Missouri?
It starts with self-interest. Labor unions and special interest groups are usually staunch supporters of any minimum wage increase. Just look at the national “Fight for $15” campaign a few years back, which was funded to the tune of more than $100 million by the SEIU. Labor unions have a particular interest in minimum wage increases since their contracts are directly tied to the minimum wage. When union members get a pay increase, labor bosses often secure higher revenues from union dues that are a percentage of employees’ pay.
There’s also a political motivation. Missouri Democrats are hoping to bolster voter turnout for the 2018 midterm election, particularly in support of Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. One local newspaper put it best: “Missouri Dems hope minimum wage helps McCaskill.” It’s a cynical ploy to gain political support at the expense of lost jobs.
Voters heading to the polls this November should remain wary about the self-interested labor unions and special interest groups. “Raise up Missouri” and “Arkansas for a Fair Wage” are fueled by out-of-state money groups who care more about their own agendas than the needs of working families.