Washington, D.C. voters this week approved a ballot measure called Initiative 77 that would raise the minimum mandatory wages of tipped restaurant workers to $15 per hour. Local and national restaurant associations had pulled out all the stops to fight it.
What I find interesting is that these same associations fighting against the minimum wage are all in favor of foreign guestworker programs. The National Restaurant Association (headquartered in Washington, D.C., of course) has an entire section of its webpage devoted to this subject. Among other things, it advocates:
A new program to legally match willing workers with willing employers. Immigrants play a key role in the restaurant industry's growth and diversity. We need a viable temporary-worker visa program for non-agricultural employers, including hospitality businesses. Such a program would play a key role in addressing the needs of restaurant and other hospitality employers for legal, year-round, temporary workers. It is time to create a visa program that allows legal foreign-born workers to come into the United States under a controlled process to work year-round in the service economy.
Without taking any position on the general question of a mandatory minimum wage of $15, I find this particular matter interesting because it reflects such hypocrisy, as is often the case where immigration is concerned. The addiction to guestworker programs by American business is a disgrace.
Restaurants want to bring in tens of thousands of cheap foreign workers nationwide, consequences to the economy and sagging wages of citizens and resident aliens be damned — and so what if they overstay and become a stagnating social problem? They cease to be the restaurant or service industries' problem. After all, there's always next year's new round of slots to be filled.
Maybe passage of the initiative will act as one more little step on the road to forcing service industries to realize that, sooner or later, they will have to give up reliance on guestworker programs because voters, unions, and even lawsuits against employers by the "temporary" laborers (or those they replace), will make that reliance economically unattractive.