EDITOR’S NOTE: This Daily Poster report is being co-published with Newsweek.
This report was written by Julia Rock and Andrew Perez.
As corporate lobbying groups in Washington fight plans for a $15 minimum wage and warn lawmakers it's not the right time to make companies pay their workers more, big restaurant chains are telling investors a national minimum wage hike wouldn’t be a big deal.
“We share your view that a national discussion on wage issues for working Americans is needed — but the Raise the Wage Act is the wrong bill at the wrong time for our nation’s restaurants,” the National Restaurant Association (NRA) wrote in a letter to congressional leaders in February. “The restaurant industry and our workforce will suffer from a fast-tracked wage increase and elimination of the tip credit.”
The following day, a top executive at Denny’s, one of the association’s members, told investors that gradual increases in the minimum wage haven’t been a problem for the company at all. In fact, California’s law raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 has actually been good for the diner chain’s business, according to Denny’s chief financial officer, Robert Verostek.
“As they've increased their minimum wage kind of in a tempered pace over that time frame, if you look at that time frame from us, California has outperformed the system,” Verostek said on an earnings call in February. “Over that time frame, they had six consecutive years of positive guest traffic — not just positive sales, but positive guest traffic — as the minimum wage was going up.”
Denny’s is one of several publicly-traded restaurant chains whose executives have told investors in recent months that Democrats’ proposed minimum wage hike is not a real threat to their business and may even be a net positive, according to a Daily Poster review of corporate earnings calls. All of the companies have historically belonged to the NRA, which has led the fight against the Raise the Wage Act, legislation from Democrats that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
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