Add this one to the “could not make it up” category: Washington, D.C. carpenters’ unions are hiring people to picket at $1/hour above the minimum wage. Union carpenters earn approximately $19/hour; the union is paying its picketers $8/hour. The union regularly pickets non-union projects in the Washington area, regardless of how much the carpenters are being paid.
Supporters of the practice consider it a creative tactic in an era of declining union membership and clout. But critics say the reliance on nonunion members — who are paid $1 above minimum wage and receive no benefits — diminishes the impact and undercuts a principle established over decades of union struggles.
If by “creative tactic,” you mean “blatant hypocrisy,” then yes, this elephant agrees. The purpose of a union is to drive up wages of its members, above that which they would obtain in a free market; yet, the union decided that those wages are too high to pay its own workers. Unions frequently picket places that pay its own workers union or above-union salaries (ex. Bristol Farms) but do hire exclusively union workers, in an attempt to undermine the free market and increase employment for its members. Here, we see unions who have decided that a) their wages are too high to pay their own workers to picket; and b) the free market (hiring students and homeless) is a sound solution. The irony.
This comes on the heels of a radical increase in the federal minimum wage (from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour, at $0.70 until 2009); as the Cato Institute points out, the main beneficiaries of an increase in minimum wage are union members, who cannot lose employment despite increased business costs.