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But We Didn't Mean For Those Laws to Apply to Us

Today's emails seem to be following the theme of government exempting itself from its own regulations.

In the first story, many California government employees (and their families!) are issued with license plates that effectively exempt them from traffic law violations.

In the second story, the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan sets out on a voyage of discovery in which they find out that minimum wages can drastically increase costs and that different people have different needs.  And so, they exempt themselves from the law.  I am particularly sensitive to this story because the reason the city claims it is unfair to apply the law to them exactly matches my business:

After several months of negotiation, Ann Arbor elected officials Monday agreed to waive the city's "living wage'' law for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

What's been at issue is the application of the wage law to the festival's temporary workers. Under the living-wage law, groups that have contracts of $10,000 or more with the city must pay above-minimum wages. That wage level is now around $12 an hour for employees who don't receive health benefits.

Because the increased wages would significantly add to the costs of putting on the festival

Wow, who would have thought that artificially setting wage rates above the market clearing price would increase costs?  But to continue:

City Council Member Chris Easthope, who's promoted the change, argues that the festival's seasonal employees - almost all students - are not the kind of workers the wage law was meant to protect.

"This isn't an attempt to drop people below living wage levels, but to recognize there are some short-term events that struggle. I don't think that, when it was adopted, the living wage was meant to have that effect on a one-month event.''

Let's see.  I hire temporary seasonal workers in Michigan for about three months of the year.  And thought they are not students, most are retired people in their seventies who are also likely "not the kind of workers the wage law was meant to protect."  In fact, many of my workers are disabled and work slower, so I probably have a better argument than the city.  So where is my exemption? 

Posted on April 8, 2008 at 12:12 PM | Permalink


It is kind of a fun mental exercise to imagine what the press would make of a bill that allowed an exemption from minimum wage laws for those over 55. (Though, actually, it's not really a bad idea)

Posted by: SuperMike | Apr 8, 2008 5:59:26 PM

"I don't think that, when it was adopted, the living wage was meant to have that effect on a one-month event."

What would this clown rather do, have an effect on an "event" (ie business) that wants to exist all the time?

Do these people even know what they are saying? Do they know how stupid they really sound?

Posted by: dave smith | Apr 9, 2008 7:07:12 AM

I live just outside of Ann Arbor and I can tell you that these sorts of statements are pretty typical. We often refer to Ann Arbor as "The People's Republic of Ann Arbor". It's a university town and is often compared to Berkeley in it's political philosophy. Stupid statements by local politicians (and residents) are par for the course.

Posted by: James Howe | Apr 9, 2008 7:17:42 AM

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