2015-07-23

Minimum Wage Vs. "Minimum Wage"

Reporters often misuse phrases. A charitable interpretation of this is that they are simply unaware of the precise definitions of the words they use - this would be an odd attribute for professional wordsmiths, but it is possible. A less charitable interpretation of this is that reporters deliberately conflate terms and concepts in an effort to shape naive readers' opinions.

Today, I'll let you be the judge.

This morning the Associated Press published two stories about the minimum wage. Or rather, this morning the Associated Press published one story about the minimum wage, and one story about the "minimum wage."

Here's the first story, about minimum wage:
Fast-food workers in New York state would see a super-sized raise under a plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage — the first time a state has singled out a particular industry for such an increase. 
The hike, approved Thursday by the state Wage Board, would increase gradually over three years in New York City and six years for the rest of the state. It would apply to employees at any fast-food restaurant with 30 or more locations, impacting an estimated 200,000 workers.
And here's the second story, about "minimum wage:"
The movement to raise the minimum wage across the U.S. gained ground Wednesday with the huge University of California system announcing plans to increase base pay for its employees and contract workers to $15 an hour over the next two years. 
The move follows similar steps by local governments to give employees what activists call a "living wage." Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have all approved phased-in increases that eventually will take their minimum wage to $15 an hour, or about $31,200 for a full-time job.
Minimum wage is defined to be "the lowest remuneration that employers may legally pay to workers." (Don't like that link? Try this one instead.)

Given that definition, only the first of these AP stories is a report about the minimum wage.

The latter is a story about an independent organization voluntarily electing to raise its own internal base pay practices. That is, the University of California is legally permitted to pay its employees less than $15 per hour. The minimum wage in the state of California is in fact $9 per hour.

Voluntary remuneration practices within an organization that are not in violation of any wage laws have nothing to do with the minimum wage. If Walmart decided tomorrow to pay all employees no less than $60,000/year, that would not be a "minimum wage," it would simply be a single company's internal base pay decision.

Now that you know that, you tell me: Do you think the Associated Press deserves a charitable or uncharitable interpretation of their story about the University of California?