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Bernie and the $15 minimum wage

Eric Boehm of Reason explores Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ recent experience with demands for a $15 minimum wage.

One of his ideas—one of the more popular ones, considering that a version of it passed the House of Representatives this week—is that workers should be paid no less than $15 an hour, regardless of what agreement they and their employers might have otherwise reached.

But Sanders is also an employer.

As a presidential candidate, Sanders in charge of a national campaign operation that employs dozens of people (along with many more unpaid volunteers). But despite what Sanders believes other employers should have to do to treat their employees fairly, his campaign does not offer a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Some of his employees aren’t very happy about that cognitive—and fiscal—dissonance. They intend to send a sternly worded letter to campaign manager Faiz Shakir in the coming days, The Washington Post reports. “Many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially, which is severely impacting our team’s productivity and morale,” says a leaked copy of the letter. It goes on to say that field workers “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages.” …

… [I]t’s telling to see how Sanders’ campaign responded to the allegation that the Vermont socialist is not putting his money where his mouth is.

In a statement, Shakir stressed that Sanders’ campaign “offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns, as is shown by the latest fundraising reports.”

Exactly! If Sanders’ campaign can find a sufficient number of employees willing to work for $10 an hour or $12 an hour, that’s fine. No one is being coerced to work for him, and he’s paying what the market for field workers allows.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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