Employment Policies Institute | Media Matters for America

Employment Policies Institute

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  • Right-Wing Media Attempt Last-Ditch Effort To Smear Raising The Minimum Wage In Four States

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    As four states appear poised to pass ballot initiatives to raise their minimum wages, right-wing media are launching an eleventh hour smear campaign falsely claiming that a wage increase will kill jobs and hurt workers.

    On November 8, voters will decide in four states -- Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington -- whether or not to raise their state’s minimum wages. While none of the states go as high as $15 per hour, three are pushing for $12 per hour with Washington proposing a $13.50 hourly wage by 2020. If all four states raise their minimum wages it would boost pay for over 2 million workers. As Thinkprogress reported, recent polling shows all four states are on track to approve these initiatives, with Arizona seeing 58.4 percent support, Colorado 55 percent, Maine 57 percent, and Washington 58 percent.

    In an attempt to dissuade voters from approving these popular initiatives, Michael Saltsman, the research director of the business front group Employment Policies Institute, attempted to push false claims about the minimum wage in The Wall Street Journal on November 3. Saltsman cherry-picked from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report to claim a proposed federal minimum wage increase “would cost the country a half-million jobs” and he pointed to a study by researchers at the University of Washington on Seattle’s phase-in of a $15 per-hour wage to claim the city had seen a loss of employment.

    Saltsman failed to mention that the CBO report also found a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour in 2016 would have boosted net income by $2 billion, raised wages for more than 16 million workers, and lifted 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Furthermore, the CBO’s director at the time, Douglas Elmendorf, made clear in testimony before Congress in March of 2014 that while the CBO considers a wide range of effects on employment, it did not analyze potential job growth from the greater consumer demand created by higher incomes as a result of raising the minimum wage.

    Saltsman also did not mention that the study by researchers at the University of Washington ultimately found the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the 18 months studied. And when researchers attempted to predict what potential job growth might look like for Seattle without raising wages, researchers found the city created 99 percent as many new jobs with a wage increase than it might have without.

    The last minute campaign against raising the minimum wage was also pushed on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. on November 4. Fox host Stuart Varney proclaimed the far-right view that “I just don’t think you should legislate wages period” and guest Anthony Scaramucci claimed raising wages is “a real problem for the youth and this is the reason why you've got [a] 60 percent increase in African-American unemployment in the inner cities.” Scaramucci’s opposition to the minimum wage matches the stance once espoused by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for whom he serves as a prominent fundraiser. Trump claimed during the GOP primary that “wages [are] too high” when asked to offer his opinion on raising the minimum wage.

    This last-ditch effort follows an October 28 report from the conservative American Action Forum (AAF) that claimed raising wages in these four states would cost 290,000 jobs. The AAF claim was picked up by both the The Washington Examiner and The Washington Free Beacon. But AAF based its models on a 2015 study by economists Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West that did not actually predict hard job losses. According to the August 2015 study by Meer and West, raising the minimum wage could lead to a reduction in potential job growth but would not lead to "an immediate drop in relative employment levels."

    Counter to right-wing media claims that raising the minimum wage hurts workers, researchers at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found states that raised the minimum wage saw stronger low-wage earnings gains than states that did not raise wages. The right-wing media myth that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been debunked by studies that found increasing the minimum wage to have a negligible effect on low-wage employment. Researchers at Cornell University found that over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in those industries. Researchers at the University of California, in a March 2015 report for Los Angeles on how a $15.25 minimum wage would affect that metro area, actually found “employment changes" would be "quite small when compared to projected job growth of 2.5 percent a year in the city," and it estimated that the cumulative effect would be an increase of “5,262 jobs by 2019 at the county level.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking the minimum wage, giving business executives a platform to push myths about the minimum wage and bemoan the labor victories of workers. Despite the onslaught of misinformation about minimum wages, a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage and appear to be rejecting right-wing media myths.

  • Right-Wing Media Use Walmart "Bait-And-Switch" To Falsely Attack Minimum Wage

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    After building three stores in rapidly developing Washington, D.C., neighborhoods, Walmart announced it would not build two additional stores planned for low-income communities. Right-wing media are falsely claiming that the District's recent increase in its minimum wage killed these stores when in fact, Walmart originally agreed to build them only to get support for the three stores it wanted to open in better-off areas, and the company has since decided to close over 150 stores in the U.S. this year due to poor sales.

  • Wash. Post vs. Wash. Post On Walmart And The Minimum Wage

    Opponents Falsely Blame Minimum Wage For Walmart's Decision To Abandon Planned Stores In Low-Income D.C. Neighborhoods

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post gave voice to a pair of discredited researchers who falsely blamed Washington, D.C.'s incremental minimum wage increase as the core reason Walmart went back on its deal to build stores in low-income neighborhoods, a claim belied by The Post's own reporting on the retailer's decision to scale back operations at stores across the country and around the globe.

    On January 15, The Washington Post reported that Walmart plans to close 269 stores this year, including 115 overseas and 154 in the United States, as it shifts its focus toward online shopping and profitable, established supercenters and grocery stores. As part of this companywide contraction, Walmart will abandon numerous planned stores, including two in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. According to a separate January 15 Washington Post report, "behind closed doors" Walmart officials are placing some blame for the company's decision to abandon expansion plans on the city's increased minimum wage, but the heart of the problem is high construction costs and a general lack of profitability at "large urban Walmarts." The Post reported that Walmart executive vice president Mike Moore is already concerned about underperformance at the company's three stores in Washington, D.C., and company officials are worried that future stores would fail to generate enough sales.

    Despite the complexity of the issue, on January 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed in its local opinion section by right-wing researchers Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on Walmart's decision to drop two of the five stores it had planned to build in the nation's capital. The writers blamed Walmart's actions almost entirely on the city's decision to enforce an $11.50 per hour minimum wage effective July 1. The authors claimed that it would be "irresponsible" to increase municipal wages to $11.50 per hour and "downright foolish" to consider raising wages to $15 per hour in the future, concluding that "the District should ensure that it leads the region in opportunities created, not opportunities destroyed."

    The misleading op-ed came after years of research by economists debunking the claim that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, and The Post gave a platform to biased researchers who had been discredited on this specific issue. Perry has attacked minimum wage increases in Seattle by cherry-picking data to falsely suggest that Seattle lost jobs after it raised its minimum wage. Meanwhile, Saltsman and the Employment Policies Institute are tied to low-wage industries that actively lobby against raising the minimum wage.

    The assertion that Walmart is abandoning expansion plans in the nation's capital as a result of minimum wage increases falls apart once you consider that the company has already committed to raising nationwide wages for most of its associates to at least $10 per hour in 2016, and once you account for the fact that it is closing stores in cities and states around the country that have lower minimum wages and costs of living than the District does. According to The Washington Post's own reporting on January 31, Walmart is closing stores as part of a national consolidation plan and D.C.'s deputy mayor of economic development told The Post that Walmart's cancellation of planned stores in the city is not "a cost issue" but instead reflects the company's decision to begin "paring down urban markets" where stores are less profitable.

    In addition to Walmart's global store contraction, and its concerns about slagging sales at existing D.C. supercenters, there is also some question as to whether the company was ever truly committed to bringing the low-income neighborhood stores online.

    Initially, Walmart had approached city officials about building stores in the District, and the city agreed to let Walmart build three stores almost anywhere it wanted as long as the retailer also built two stores east of the Anacostia River, in one of the poorest areas of the city where job opportunities and affordable retail products are in short supply. After Walmart built the stores it wanted in gentrifying neighborhoods, the retailer announced it would not build the two stores the city government wanted in low-income communities. On January 19, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that the "bait-and-switch that Walmart just pulled off in the District has to rank among the sleaziest ever played," and noted that it is poor residents of color who got "burned."

  • A Web Of Climate Deception: The Beacon Hill Institute, Richard Berman, And The State Policy Network

    Bogus Study On EPA's Clean Power Plan Could Be Coming To A Newspaper Near You

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER & DENISE ROBBINS

    A deceptive op-ed campaign to undermine action on climate change is underway in states across the country. Infamous corporate lobbyist Richard Berman is funding sham "studies" attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan that are produced by the Beacon Hill Institute and distributed by the State Policy Network -- two organizations with financial ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The Beacon Hill Institute studies, which will appear in 16 states this year, dramatically inflate the Clean Power Plan's projected costs and admittedly don't even analyze the EPA's actual proposal -- so newspapers owe it to their readers to avoid promoting these studies or publishing op-eds that do.

  • 6 Of The Worst Media Scandals Of 2013

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Reasonable Discourse2013 got off to a promising start when perennial conservative huckster Dick Morris was finally fired from Fox News.

    But any hope for year free from scandal unraveled as conservative outlets like Fox, and venerable institutions like CBS and CNN, found themselves mired in ethical morasses of their own making.

    Media Matters looks back at the year in media ethics:

    60 Minutes Botches Benghazi

    CNN's Newt Gingrich Problem

    Fox News' Paid Promoters

    The Fox News Candidates

    Newspaper Op-Ed Disclosures

    Wash. Post Cuts Its Full-Time Ombudsman

  • Wall Street Journal Obscures Op-Ed Writer's Connection To Fast Food Lobby

    Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    The Wall Street Journal provided a platform for the Employment Policies Institute, a lobbying group with ties to the fast food industry, to push misleading claims about the effects of minimum wage increases -- but the Journal failed to disclose the group's connections.

    On October 28, the Journal posted an op-ed from Michael Saltsman that dismissed low-wage workers' recent push for a minimum wage increase and claimed the "vast majority of people earning the minimum wage aren't working at large corporations with 1,000 or more employees." Saltsman used this claim to suggest that small businesses would be hurt if forced to "bear the brunt" of increases in the minimum wage -- a common right-wing media myth that has been repeatedly undermined by economic data. The Journal's disclaimer identified Saltsman simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute."

    But the Journal's disclaimer doesn't mention that Saltsman's employer is a front group for corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, who lobbies for, among others, the restaurant industry. In 2007, CBS noted that Berman "takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname 'Dr. Evil,' " and reported:

    His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.

    [...]

    He has come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but "educating," with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal.

    Berman and his staff of young crusaders attack the nanny culture by combing through watchdog and government reports, seeking inconsistencies, overstatements, seizing on the one fact here or there that might discredit the research. And Berman says he's rarely disappointed.

    [...]

    "He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," says Dr. Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group. Jacobson has been the point man in the "food wars" for decades.

    [...]

    Who are the companies that support Berman?

    "The food industry, the beverage industry, alcoholic beverage industry, the restaurant industry's a major supporter. He doesn't disclose the names of his funders," Jacobson says.

    Saltsman's claims are just another example of the Employment Policies Institute's track record of using misleading studies to claim that minimum wage increases would hurt the economy without providing real evidence. From the Center for Media and Democracy:

    In 1995, EPI lashed out at Princeton University professors David Card and Alan Krueger, after they published a survey of fast-food restaurants which found no loss in the number of jobs in New Jersey after implementing an increase in the state's minimum wage. Berman accused Card and Krueger of using bad data, citing contrary figures that his own institute had collected from some of the same restaurants. But whereas Card and Krueger had surveyed 410 restaurants, Berman's outfit only collected data from 71 restaurants and has refused to make its data publicly available so that other researchers can assess whether it "cherry-picked" restaurants to create a sample that would support its predetermined conclusions.

    The Wall Street Journal has a responsibility to disclose the Employment Policies Institute's corporate lobbying ties when providing a platform for such commentary.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Glosses Over Op-Ed Writer's Fast Food Industry Ties

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal failed to note that the author of a recent op-ed on the fast food worker strike is closely associated with a lobbying group for the fast food industry.

    The August 30 op-ed titled, "Minimum wage hike means fewer jobs," was authored by Michael Saltsman, who the paper identified simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute." Saltsman wrote that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which fast food workers are currently demanding in strikes across the country, would leave employers with no choice but to "provide the same service with fewer employees," a common conservative myth which has been debunked.

    The paper did not disclose that the Employment Policies Institute is one of several front groups started by corporate lobbyist Richard Berman. Berman, who has received the nickname "Dr. Evil" for the corporate clients he represents, was featured in an April 2007 CBS report which explained his lobbying efforts:

    Rick Berman takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname "Dr. Evil." But the people who use it see nothing funny about it--they mean it.

    His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Pens Misleading Editorial To Push Minimum Wage Myths

    ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial opposing minimum wage laws claimed that minimum wage jobs are only meant to be starting points for young workers who will later seek better paying jobs and that increasing the minimum wage would hurt youth employment, citing a fast food industry lobbyist's think tank to support these claims. In reality, studies show that minimum wage work is not limited to entry-level workers, increases in minimum wage would not hurt youth employment, and Nevada would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.

  • Right-Wing Media Promote Minimum Wage Mobility Fantasy

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In an effort to downplay the necessity of increasing the minimum wage, right-wing media figures have forwarded the notion that minimum wage jobs are primarily for teenagers and are a "stepping stone" to higher paying future employment. However, the prospects for upward mobility among minimum wage workers remain grim.

  • Fox Fails To Disclose Corporate Ties Of Lobbyist Dismissing Fast Food Worker Strike

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business provided a platform for a corporate lobbyist with clients in the fast food industry to dismiss striking workers' demands for higher wages without disclosing his industry ties.

    Labor organizers in seven cities across the U.S. planned the largest employee walk out of the year for July 29. Thousands of employees in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Flint, Detroit, and New York City will take part in what is potentially the largest fast food worker mobilization in history demanding better wages and stronger benefits from some of the country's largest and most profitable corporations.

    On the July 29 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney interviewed Richard Berman of the Employment Policies Institute to provide a critical analysis of the walk outs. Berman dismissed the idea of raising fast food employee wages, claiming that the hike in pay would result in lower employment:

    BERMAN: At $15 an hour many, I won't say a majority but many fast food restaurants are out of business, the business model just does not support those kind of wages. If people are feeling that they are not being paid adequately, then they have got to find a job someplace else

    Berman, a corporate lobbyist, was allowed to provide this input without disclosing his organization's ties to the fast food industry. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Employment Policies Institute is one of many front groups associated with Berman which provide political cover for clients in the restaurant, hospitality, alcohol, and tobacco industries. Berman specializes in a so-called "aggressive media outreach" approach intended to "change the debate" in favor of major clients.

    Leading up to his interview with Berman, Varney also promoted an advertisement by MinimumWage.com, an Employment Policies Institute subsidiary, which falsely claims that the federal minimum wage kills jobs and replaces workers with machine automation. Fox and other right-wing media outlets have a long history of championing false attacks on living wages. In April, Fox News used similar tactics to criticize a previous fast food worker strike in New York City.

  • The top five ads Fox News apparently doesn't find "confusing"

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    We noted earlier today that Fox News declared it would not air an ad by the progressive group VoteVets, reportedly because it found the ad "too confusing." That got us to thinking: What ads doesn't Fox News consider "confusing," as made self-evident by their appearance on the channel? So we rummaged through Media Matters' expansive Fox News archives and found a few examples.

    American Future Fund: This ad claims that "liberals are crafting a secret health care bill behind closed doors" -- even though it was clear by the time this ad aired (March 19) that the House would try to pass the Senate's health care reform bill, which was right out there in the open. The ad also references "sleazy deals" like the purported "Cornhusker Kickback" (which was extended to all 50 states under the reconciliation measure that accompanied the House's passage of the Senate bill) and "Louisiana Purchase" (which was intended to fix Medicaid shortfalls caused by Hurricane Katrina as was supported by state GOP officials).