Starbucks and other companies lead by example by increasing workers’ wages…what about Nick Hanauer?

Jul 14, 2016

Civic Skunk Works, the blog funded by liberal billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, posted earlier this week that while businesses like Chase, Target, Walmart and Starbucks are on the right path in voluntarily increasing their workers’ wages, they wonder whether that is “enough.” It seems enough never is for some minimum wage advocates.

To put it in context, Chase will raise the minimum pay for employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour for both full and part time workers.  Starbucks will increase their employees’ total compensation by up to 15%.  Target increased their minimum starting wage to $10, and Walmart’s wage hikes will result in an average full-time hourly wage of $13.38, and an average part-time hourly wage of $10.58.  As the blog put it, those employers’ wage hikes make them now “slightly less predatory.”

Hanauer has been an outspoken proponent of increasing the minimum wage; he even says $15 is not enough and increasing it to $28 would create “an unbelievably robust economy.”  He has also said any employer who pays minimum wage is really saying, “I would pay you less, except then I’d go to prison.’”

Picking up on that theme, Hanauer’s Civic Skunk Works blog post declares that while the higher wages being paid by Chase, Target, Walmart and Starbucks are essentially better than nothing, other employers simply cannot be counted on to pay higher wages without a government mandate:

“The market will not decide on a minimum wage that benefits everyone. The market is made up of people making choices. Individual owners will figure out how little they can get away with paying, and minimum-wage workers will have to figure out how to survive on that. And as in all large groups of humans, there will be people who try to behave like good citizens and there will be people who prey on the lowest common denominator. Not everyone can work for Target or Starbucks; some will wind up employed by more predatory bosses.”

Ummm, like Nick Hanauer?  He admits he pays much less than a $15 “living wage” to his employees.  Entry-level, unskilled workers at Hanauer’s company in North Carolina start at just $7.50 per hour, with higher-skilled workers earning upwards of $11.  Walmart pays its workers more than that.

When asked to explain the hypocrisy, Hanauer simply responded via Twitter that he doesn’t pay his workers a living wage because he doesn’t have to:

“Because the min wage is 7.25 an hour. Make me raise wages by raising the minimum wage.”

So while other companies that are leading by example with voluntary wage hikes that Hanauer's Civic Skunk Works says make those companies just “slightly less predatory,” Hanauer makes it clear he isn’t going to pay his workers a higher wage unless government forces him to.

Who is the predatory boss here?

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