Emails show collusion in squashing Seattle minimum wage story

We learned a couple of months ago that the municipal government in Seattle, Washington was quite upset over a University of Washington study which showed that their rapidly hiked up minimum wage had harmed low income workers more than it helped them. (The situation was bad enough that even the New York Times couldn’t defend the results beyond saying that the city “had tolerated the increase” fairly well.) Rather than responding to the news with a second look at the policy, City Hall got to work pushing out a second study contradicting the results of the first one and trying to squash any mention of the University of Washington findings.

But just how deeply were they involved in colluding on this effort? As the Free Beacon reports this week, emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Mayor Ed Murray was taking a strong hand in trying to steer public attention away from the problems the new law had caused.

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.”

So who are the key players involved in this collusion? The Mayor’s office of course, but we also have a government workers union public relations firm and the economics department at UC Berkeley. That’s a fine nest of characters to put together a liberal public relations blitz. And Murray’s involvement was hardly incidental. As the emails indicate, he helped tailor the “scholarly report” from Berkeley, making sure that any reference to the University of Washington study was scrubbed from it. He saw the damage coming and was doing everything in his power to hide the bad news from his constituents. Berkeley economist Michael Reich is seen in the emails getting Murray’s approval for what his report would say.

“I changed the UW references to be about their report from Nov. 2016. Is that OK? Could put them in a para. rather than as bullets. Or take them out altogether,” Reich said in an email.

Yes indeed, that’s a really “scientific” study from an expert at Berkeley when you’ve got a politician being given editorial power over the final report and how it will be phrased. The Berkeley study was nonsense and did nothing to refute the U.W. findings. It was all a carefully orchestrated campaign by City Hall in Seattle to deceive the voters about the effects of the minimum wage hike.

It’s a good thing that Murray is already on his way out or this might have cause even more problems for him in the next election. The Mayor announced in May that he would not be seeking another term amid charges of child sexual abuse. He will instead be heading to the private sector and spending more time with his husband and family.

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