Minimum wage ad campaign derailed by Subway Authority

By Connor D. Wolf

DC NEWSNew York City subway officials expect to have removed almost all advertisements advocating for a $15 minimum wage by Friday after admitting it was a mistake to authorize them in the first place.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved the campaign Sept. 21. Not long after, officials revoked their approval, saying it was only given in error. The subway system has a strict policy banning political advertisements. The Amalgamated Bank, which sponsored the ads, is condemning the decision.

“We have a constitutional right to free speech,” Amalgamated President Keith Mestrich told Crain’s New York Business. “We should be able to buy ads for any kind of political speech.”

Amalgamated, a union-owned bank, bought the advertisement spots for upwards of six-figures. The purchase included 1,260 banners and poster. Unions, for the most part, have been some of the more adamant proponents for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Supporters have claimed the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to afford basic necessities. The increased purchases would than stimulate economic activity, the thinking goes.

Amalgamated vows not to take the rejection standing down. The subway policy does state ads must have a neural view and therefore must not be political. Nevertheless, Amalgamated may consider legal actions for having its posters and banners torn down.

“We’re looking at all of our legal options at this point,” Mestrich also noted. “Have been up for weeks without any controversy.”

New York state officials are currently considering raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The plan was first announced by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 10. As noted by Mestrich, “The governor is a great ally on the issue of minimum wage.”

Currently the state minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. The proposed increase will gradually put New York City to the $15 mark by 2018 and the rest of the state by 2021. If successful, New York could become the first state with a $15 minimum wage. Florida and Massachusetts are also considering doing the same as well.

Though no state has passed a $15 minimum wage, the movement has seen several successes on the city level. Seattle became the first to pass a $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. Not long after, other cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles also enacted their own $15 minimum wage measures. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years.

On the national level, Fight for $15 has been the main advocate behind the current minimum wage movement. The union-backed group has utilized rallies and media marketing campaigns in its efforts.

Still, the movement has garnered significant criticism. Opponents have stated such an increase will actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. Some have also accused the movement for being nothing more than an organizing drive for unions. Worker Center Watch (WCW) has say unions are using the Fight for $15 protests as a way of bypassing labor laws to more easily unionize fast food workers. According to a report from the Center for Union Facts, a minimum wage increase would benefit the SEIU directly while hurting non-unionized competitors.

The benefits or negative outcomes of increasing the minimum wage usually depend on the study. Nevertheless, even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees any increase of the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss.

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