The Democratic Party has adopted the $15 minimum wage on its platform despite presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s fears that it will eliminate jobs.
Democrats on Monday released their proposed 2016 platform, which lays out the party’s official principles and policy statements. The party officially endorsed the $15 minimum wage, an issue that key unions have long sought to implement as policy. The wage rate, which is more than double the federal minimum of $7.25, would also apply to tipped workers, such as waiters, who earn $2.13 an hour.
"Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union," the platform says.
The endorsement stands at odds with Hillary Clinton’s proposal for a $12 minimum wage. Clinton bucked the $15 rate backed by insurgent candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), a self-declared socialist. On November 3 Clinton questioned whether $15 was economically feasible at the federal level without causing "job loss and dislocation if it were higher" compared to $12.
"I want to encourage more communities if they can afford to go higher, but if not, $12 will give us a good solid increase and it will bring us back to the historic high was," she said.
Clinton won the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which has spent tens of millions of dollars on the Fight for $15 movement. The Clinton campaign did not return a request for comment about whether she would update her position to match the platform.
Michael Saltsman, research director at the free market Employment Policies Institute, said that the platform does not reflect economic reality. The institute has conducted numerous studies on the effects of massive wage hikes and found that they result in more automation as employers cope with rising labor costs, as well as job loss among younger and less experienced workers. EPI estimates that Clinton’s $12 wage would cut 800,000 jobs and that $15 could prove catastrophic.
"A $15 minimum wage is a harmful policy that’s not supported by the academic evidence, or even by left of center economists who otherwise support raising the minimum wage," he said to the Washington Free Beacon. "The legacy of this policy will be fewer small business and less opportunity for the employees the party claims to care about."
Other labor watchdogs took issue with the Democratic platform.
"We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy," the platform says.
Heather Greenaway, executive director of the free market Workforce Fairness Institute, said that the platform’s sweeping declaration would nullify a number of exemptions written into minimum wage laws at the state and local levels. Some cities allow employers with unionized workforces to pay below the $15 rate, which gives companies an incentive to push employees to unionize. Greenaway pointed to Los Angeles, where SEIU campaigned for the $15 rate, but asked the city council to exempt union shops from the new minimum.
"The same union bosses who have been advocating for $15 per hour have also been seeking exemptions for their own members by brokering back room deals in various cities across the nation," Greenaway said. "Their goal is not to help their membership; instead, manipulate non-unionized businesses for the purpose of increasing labor membership and dues. Bravo to the Democratic Party for calling foul on this hypocrisy."
SEIU did not respond to a request for comment.