ON-Lion Letter

As labor activists rallied to increase Washington State's minimum wage to $15, new research from the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Wash., has uncovered the true cost of the effort -- both in dollar amounts to protest organizers and the hit to the state's economy.

The organization orchestrating the 4/15 $15 minimum-wage rallies was Working Washington, which is singularly focused on increasing the state minimum wage.  Rather than generating grassroots support for its efforts, however, union LM-2 forms on file with the U.S. Department of Labor indicate Working Washington is directly funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Working Washington has received $8.9 million from SEIU since its creation in 2011, according to the Freedom Foundation's analysis.  Additionally, Working Washington's registration with the Washington Secretary of State indicates its officers are all SEIU employees.

Many observers contend SEIU's purpose is not to raise the minimum wage, but to pave the way to unionize potentially hundreds of thousands of fast-food employees nationwide by breaking down the legal barriers that separate franchises from franchisors.

Despite the vast resources SEIU has poured into the effort, it has experienced difficulty getting actual employees to participate in its stage-managed protests.  The Freedom Foundation has previously documented that Working Washington has paid workers to participate in its protests.

Plus, an April Freedom Foundation report, Promises Made, Promises Broken:  The Failure of Washington State's Minimum Wage Law, examines the consequences of Washington State's already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage and concludes that SEIU's success in the Fight for $15 would come at the expense of the state economy.

Passed by voters in 1998, Initiative 688 substantially raised the state minimum wage and indexed it to inflation.  Since that time, the state poverty rate has remained effectively unchanged, despite the dramatic increase in the state minimum wage relative to the poverty rate.

At the same time, while Washington State's overall job market has performed well, job growth in low-wage industries like accommodation and food service slowed substantially following I-688's adoption.

And while the state's teen-unemployment rate generally mirrored the national rate before the minimum-wage initiative, its teen-unemployment rate has significantly surpassed the national rate every year since I-688's passage.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Freedom Foundation.

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