B²: Minimum Wage

Now that Labor Day Weekend has passed, you face two very important tasks: 1) put away your summer whites and 2) return to work.

A return to work quickly focuses our minds on the topic of the minimum wage…especially with the majority of Americans in support of raising it. (Hart Research Associates reported in January 2015 that 75% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $12.50.) With the polling data so heavily favoring one side, it’s no surprise that the minimum wage has become a topic of conversation, especially amongst Presidential candidates.

On a tour through New Hampshire, Governor John Kasich was asked to give his perspective. The Washington Post reported that he “rebuffed the idea of raising the federal minimum wage. He told reporters that any increase in the minimum wage should be done state by state, but that it should obviously increase.”

Not too surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is happy to give her position on an issue polling in her favor. In July she stated, “I think it’s going to be important that we set a national minimum, but then we get out of the way of cities and states that believe that they can and should go higher.”

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the minimum wage, especially as the Presidential race heats up. But what will you say if you’re asked about the minimum wage and your answer is not to raise it? Do you know how to respond so those struggling to make ends meet are considered?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “How do you expect a single parent to support their family if they only make minimum wage? Isn’t it time to consider a living wage?”

: “The challenges a single parent faces are great, and I have no doubt it’s difficult to provide for a family when you’re only making minimum wage. There is, and should continue to be, a safety net for this reason. But we must look at the unintended consequences of raising the minimum wage <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, whether you focus on how raising the minimum wage will mean less job opportunities for those looking for work, how it is likely to push people out of the workforce, or talk about the burden on businesses, you have to meet the emotion of the question before you transition to your talking points. Otherwise, you’ll sound like you don’t care about people. And if you sound like you don’t care about people, the audience will assume you care only about money…and that’s never a winning argument.

B²: Wage Wars

President Obama is waging a war…on wages. In the midst of the fights in cities (Los Angeles being the most recent battleground), the President is set to take on the wage battle where he thinks he can – overtime pay.

Bill Samuel, director of legislative affairs for the AFL-CIO told Politico:

“The minimum wage they can’t do. This is probably the most significant step they can take to raise wages for millions of workers.”

Obama is purportedly posed to bypass Congress and, through the Department of Labor, propose a new rule on overtime pay as early as this week.

Do you know how to talk about the potential government-mandated overtime pay increases without sounding like you’re trying to keep the struggling guy down?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here’s the likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “How is it fair that millions of Americans are working overtime without overtime pay?”

: “What isn’t fair is that so many Americans can’t even find work these days, let alone a job that includes overtime. And what we do know is that <insert talking point>.”

You can continue the conversation by focusing on the reports that show this will severely limit flexibility in the workplace without improving pay (base salaries will be lowered to offset higher costs). Or, you can focus on dealing with overtime pay the right way – through Congress and not executive action.

But wherever you choose to take the conversation next, do highlight the fact that the real problem in employment are those who can’t find work and have had their hours cut due to Obama’s policies.

Last, a messaging note of caution. Unions have been very clever in branding the term “living wage.” Don’t let their words trip you up. Instead of focusing on how much money people need to make ends meet (which varies from person to person and city to city), focus on the specific ideas that bring more income to all American kitchen tables, regardless of where they live. Solutions trump problems!