It’s not surprising that the story is framed this way, since it’s surely an Employment Policies Institute press release-driven piece. The Star Tribune and Orange County Register both had stories noting the rise in state minimum wages the day before the Journal piece. Both also cited the Employment Policies Institute and neither noted its background.
A big boo. You can’t cite something with one of those names that makes it seem like a dowdy think tank without pointing out that it’s a front group for corporate interests. Readers have a right to know where their information comes from.
The Journal does give us some numbers down in the story on how a company’s costs might increase:
Martin O’Dowd estimates a pending 36-cent increase in the minimum wage in Florida to $7.67 an hour will add up to more than $1 million in annual operating expenses for the 30 Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurants outlets he owns there.
But even this isn’t worth much without context. How much are the company’s overall operating expenses? What’s its profit? Does it expect to pass on higher labor costs to customers via slightly higher menu prices? We’re not told.
There’s also no context here about how low the minimum wage has gotten. Back in the 1960s, the minimum wage was about $10.41 an hour, or 44 percent more than it is now, and the economy was good. The highest minimum wage in the country today is in San Francisco, an astronomically expensive city, where it’s $9.92 an hour ($10.24 next month).
I don’t mean to imply that the story is all bad. If you make it that far, the Journal’s kicker is nice, for instance:
Initially, he paid some plant workers the lowest wages possible. But when he later decided to give out raises that exceeded the minimum required, he says he gained a more loyal work force. Today his lowest-paid staffers earn $11 an hour. The minimum hourly wage that employers must pay in Montana will rise 30 cents to $7.65 next month. “Our turnover dramatically reduced and the engagement level from our employees rose,” he says.
But framing matters, as does context, particularly when quoting astroturf shops.