In April, Seattle’s minimum wage workers finally get their badly-needed raise to $15 per hour…But not if McDonald’s can help it.
Ron Fein from the Huffington Post reports that the City of Seattle voted to raise the wage to $15 per hour back in June. So of course McDonald’s — and other restaurant, hotel, retail, and other chains who depend on low wage slave labor — are suing the city. They filed their lawsuit almost immediately with the U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle.
But, oh… The plot sickens. These corporate titans have based their case on the 14th Amendment!
The International Franchise Association, with assistance from the National Restaurant Association and other industry trade groups, is claiming that the law is not just bad for their bottom line, but actually violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Yes, you read that right. McDonald’s and friends are using the 14th Amendment — which gave newly-freed slaves equal rights and equal protection under the law — to demand that the city of Seattle re-enslave their workers. So, how does that work? Well, since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people in Citizens United, these corporate interests have full license to whine about how they, too, are entitled to equal protection under the law.
That amendment was passed in 1866 to ensure equal rights for the freed slaves, and it says that no state may “deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws.” According to the Hamburglar [a McDonald’s character who steals hamburgers and other “food”], treating a franchised business differently from a local business violates this Equal Protection Clause.
Yet Fein, legal director of Free Speech for Free People, insists that the 14th Amendment was specifically intended to protect workers from getting taken advantage of by soulless employers like McDonald’s. In fact, the words “fair, living wages” came up over and over again during the deliberations and drafting of the 14th Amendment.
Given how important the idea of “fair, living wages” was to the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment, it’s shameful for the McNugget Buddies to claim that the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause should protect them, rather than real human workers with families to feed.
How can the people who run McDonald’s and other corporations possibly be so greedy that they would force their own workers into poverty, and force tax payers to subsidize them so they don’t starve and go homeless? What makes them think this is okay?
Yet, this is far from the first time the greedy heads of corporations have tried to use this argument. In fact, Fein tells us about a Supreme Court justice who complained that only one-half of one percent of 14th Amendment cases were launched by workers. The rest came from cheap corporations who didn’t want to pay their workers fairly.
In 1938, a frustrated Supreme Court justice complained that “of the cases in [the] Court in which the Fourteenth Amendment was applied during the first fifty years after its adoption, less than one-half of 1 percent invoked it in protection of the negro race, and more than 50 percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations.”
Would raising the wage destroy McDonald’s?
McDonald’s and other business interests howl about how raising wages will destroy them, but this simply isn’t true. In the 1940s-1960s, workers got paid well, and business was booming.
Fein writes that Seattle’s City Council studied the issues surrounding their minimum wage hike carefully before raising it to $15. The city also got to see a real-life model of how a $15 per hour wage would affect workers, businesses and the economy. SeaTac, WA, a nearby town that hosts Seattle’s airport, raised their minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2013.
And guess what? Despite all the whining about businesses going under, the restaurants, retailers, and other companies in and around the airport are thriving, as posted in Addicting Info. In fact, SeaTac’s economy is growing faster than ever.
Fein urges that we put a stop to this dubious legal argument once and for all. Businesses already had a chance to make their case against raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. They lost.
We need to put a stop to this dangerous constitutional argument. The businesses had their opportunity to make their case to the city, and they lost. They shouldn’t be allowed to run to court carrying in the banner of the Fourteenth Amendment.
We all know that most minimum wage earners are not teenagers with part-time jobs, they’re adults with families to support. We’ve also learned the hard way that rich people do not create jobs, a strong middle class that can afford to buy things creates jobs and a prosperous economy. So how did McDonalds’ ridiculous non-case even make it into court?
Featured photo: Banksy’s Ronald McDonald sculpture cc 2013, Cardinal De La Ville/Wikimedia Commons.