Newly published emails reveal that the Seattle mayor's office coordinated with academics and a union public relations firm to rush a study purporting to downplay job and wage losses associated with a $15 minimum wage.
Democratic Mayor Ed Murray's office turned to the University of California, Berkeley, to rush a study alleging that the city's $15 minimum wage legislation benefitted the economy to counter a forthcoming study from the University of Washington that found that the massive wage hike cost low-skilled and entry-level workers $179 a month. The mayor's office asked Berkeley economist Michael Reich to remove any reference to the Washington study to prevent it from receiving exposure.
"Leave the critique of the UW study until later," mayoral staffer Carlo Caldirola-Davis said in an email obtained through a public records request from the pro-free market think tank Employment Policies Institute. "The release still calls out the UW study. Don't want your positive news to serve as a teaser for the UW study."
Reich's study compared Seattle's food service economy to a "synthetic" control group of other Washington State and out-of-state cities, as wages increased to $13 an hour in 2016 as part of an ordinance that will eventually raise the minimum wage to $15. It concluded that "wages in food services did increase—indicating the policy achieved its goal" and that "employment in food service, however, was not affected."
The paper removed any mention of the forthcoming University of Washington study, which found the decline in wages as the city raised wages to $13 an hour. The Berkeley study only mentioned two 2016 studies from the University of Washington that found that a "significant increase" in wages in 2015, which researchers credited to the wage hike and a boom economy in the city.