Fox's Payne Distorts Argument Against Minimum Wage Increase

Fox's Charles Payne attempted to discredit fast-food workers' planned attempt to organize for union representation and a higher minimum wage by falsely claiming workers are arguing for a sliding scale of extra income.  

Neil Cavuto hosted Fox Business contributor Charles Payne on the August 28 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto to discuss protests planned by fast-food workers, who are demanding higher pay and the right to unionize. Payne claimed during the segment that employers don't owe a debt to their employees and mischaracterized the minimum wage increase as a sliding scale of pay:

PAYNE: Listen, I don't begrudge anyone for trying to earn extra money, but what they're essentially saying is that their salary should be doubled from where they are. It doesn't match the skill set. Now, if we start to talk about this -- and listen, it's something that's been echoed all day long with theme of the March on Washington -- that somehow corporations owe a debt to people who work for them. So if Susan has two kids, she gets X amount of income, then she has another child, then the corporation should pay more money specifically because they owe her a debt and she had another kid -- sort of the responsibility or the welfare state that's been such a burden on America is now being thrusted, or attempted to be thrusted on the shoulders of corporate America.

But workers aren't demanding a sliding scale of income. They're organizing for fair representation at work and a single minimum wage increase. As Ezra Klein explained: “most workers have less power to negotiate raises than they did a generation ago”:

The problem is severe enough that it earned a mention at the beginning of President Obama's 2013 State of the Union address. “We gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded,” he said. “Our economy is adding jobs - but too many people still can't find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs - but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.”

There are many explanations for why labor's share of income is falling. Globalization, automation, skills-based technological change and the decline of unions all play a part. But in the end, all these explanations end up saying the same thing: Most workers have less power to negotiate raises than they did a generation ago. And that's truest for those who making the least money and holding the fewest skills.

The workers' planned action is, according to the Boston Globe, the latest in a series of protests by low-wage workers that first gained attention last November and gathered momentum after summer fast-food strikes across the country's largest cities: 

The fast-food employees' uprising has been gaining momentum since a few hundred workers staged a one-day strike in New York in November, followed by demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and several major Midwestern cities this summer.

Their movement is part of a mounting wave of actions by low-wage-workers, including picketing at more than 1,000 Walmart stores on Black Friday last November and an appeal by airport contract workers for better working conditions.

Beyond increasing their at-work negotiating power, fast-food workers are organizing to pull themselves and their families above the federal poverty line. The Los Angeles Times noted that low-wage workers across the country “are struggling to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families” and raising the minimum wage would, according to a study by the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, have a dramatic effect on pulling the working poor out of poverty:

The study, by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national organization focusing on racial equity in the restaurant industry, discovered that nearly 58 percent-- or roughly 6 million -- of the 10.4 million U.S. workers living below the federal poverty level in 2011 would be pulled out by such an increase. (Proposed legislation introduced to Congress earlier this year by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) called for just that.)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the working poor as those who either had jobs, or were looking for at least half the year and still fell below the poverty line.

The federal minimum wage -- currently set at $7.25 -- was last increased in 2009.