MANITOWOC – Scott Manley sought to make the case that raising the minimum wage would likely hurt and not help those individuals making the federal and Wisconsin minimum of $7.25 per hour.
"The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates about 500,000 lost jobs nationwide, but the possibility of up to a million," Manley told a Monday Business Connects with Government audience at the luncheon program sponsored by The Chamber of Manitowoc County.
The vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said higher labor costs from government-mandated wage hikes do not result in additional efficiency, output or productivity.
Manley said his first job, starting at minimum with subsequent raises, was working for a locally owned McDonalds as a high school student.
He said if the franchisee had to pay $10.10 an hour — the recommended hike proposed by President Barack Obama — there would be a substantial increase in costs "without selling an additional cheeseburger."
He said employers typically cope with higher labor costs with several possible tactics, including:
• Reducing hours available for work.
• Reducing employee benefits.
• Cutting existing employees.
• Stopping hiring new or additional employees.
• Raising prices for goods and services. "But many companies in a lot of sectors are unable to do so and remain competitive ... their margins are so slim and you can't price yourself out of the market," he said.
"I would contend none of these options are good outcomes for employees," said Manley, a lobbyist who joined WMC in 2005 after serving as a policy adviser in the Wisconsin State Senate.
Manley said data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows 3.6 million minimum wage workers in the nation, some 2.3 percent of the labor force, with "only 1.1 percent of minimum wage earners age 25 and older."
He said the percentage of the total workforce attempting to raise a family on minimum wage is less than one-half of 1 percent.
Manley said it is a fact that in 80 percent of minimum wage families with a child, the minimum wage accounts for less than 20 percent of the household's total income, which may include public assistance from the taxpayers.
He said single moms raising children are a "very sympathetic demographic ...that said, in Wisconsin only 9 percent of minimum wage workers, 0.29 percent of all workers, are single earners with kids ... and numerous public assistance programs supplement that income."
Manley said polls commissioned by WMC and others often show strong public support for increase of the minimum wage, "largely because people don't understand the issue and economic implications."
He said a WMC-commissioned survey in February found 53 percent support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, with 40 percent opposed.
"But when to that raising the wage could result in 27,000 lost jobs in Wisconsin, support dropped to 39 percent with 51 percent opposing the idea," said Manley, who earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He said no statewide minimum wage increase bills got out of committee where they would have likely faced a Gov. Scott Walker veto.
Manley said the WMC would prefer the legislature focus on policies with a broader impact, since so few Wisconsinites are making minimum wage. He said politicians in Madison should seek to strengthen initiatives promoting, retaining and expanding higher-pay, family supporting jobs in manufacturing, health care and other sectors.
But he said the push by labor unions seeking more private sector members, especially in food service and hospitality, means "this issue isn't going away anytime soon."