Michael Saltsman lays out some specious reasoning and faulty arguments for why restaurant owners should be able to legally pay servers less than the minimum wage. That’s fine, as a public relations professional employed to advocate against low wage workers, that’s his job.
The Providence Journal, on the other hand, failed at its job and committed a journalistic sin by obfuscating the real origins of the op/ed. An editor’s note following the piece labels Saltsman as the “research director at the Employment Policies Institute, which receives support from businesses, foundations and individuals.”
In truth, the Employment Policies Institute is a front for a public relations firm funded by the restaurant industry and affluent conservatives to astroturf against low wage workers.
The New York Times last year profiled the Employment Policies Institute in an article titled “Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Lies.” Here’s the first two paragraphs of that story:
WASHINGTON — Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment.
But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute’s reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.
It goes on to explain how the Employment Policies Institute actually has no employees and was started by a pr pro who advocates for fast food and other corporate clients.
The Employment Policies Institute, founded two decades ago, is led by the advertising and public relations executive Richard B. Berman, who has made millions of dollars in Washington by taking up the causes of corporate America. He has repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom that have challenged limits like the ban on indoor smoking and the push to restrict calorie counts in fast foods.
In 2012, according to the New York Times, the Employment Policies Institute listed on its tax return just 11 donors, some of whom gave as much as $500,000. Most of that money either pays Berman’s pr company or purchases advertising beneficial to its clients. The website BermanExposed.org says Saltzman is an employee of Berman’s pr firm.
The Times writes the Employment Policies Institute is a “critical element in the lobbying campaign against the increase in the minimum wage, as restaurant industry groups, in their own statements and news releases, often cite the institute’s reports, creating the Washington echo chamber effect that is so coveted by industry lobbyists.”
Such astroturfing from powerful corporate special interests has become all too common in politics. Conservatives know the American people are opposed to their hope of keeping working class people in poverty, so they gin up voodoo economics to obfuscate the facts. The Providence Journal, on the other hand, should be in the business of educating not obfuscating and it committed a journalistic sin when it misrepresented Saltsman’s op/ed as unbiased economics.