Premise 1: Unions are all about helping workers.
Premise 2: The minimum wage should be raised a whole lot to help workers.
Given these three items, one of these conclusions is true:
A) unions are not interested in helping workers; or
B) the minimum wage hike will not actually be good for workers.
Does the evidence support any other possibilities?
I happen to believe A is true with regard to a good many unions these days; and B is true for all those many workers who will lose their jobs because the task they get paid to do could be done more cheaply by a machine than by a person making the new minimum wage.
It appears on the surface that the unions also recognize that B is true, but that’s assuming unions act that simply and straightforwardly, which they don’t. If the unions asking for the exemption were honestly and simply trying to help “workers,” they’d just push to block the minimum wage hike in toto.
They are, rather, pushing for an exemption only for those businesses that employ their dues-paying members. They’re not pro-worker, but pro-dues-paying-worker. Or, more precisely, they are pro-dues-being-paid. They recognize that B is true: a minimum wage hike will mean fewer jobs in those sectors most likely to unionize, whether because the business closes its doors or automates more low-skill tasks. A drop in the number of workers means a drop in the number of dues-paying members, which means a drop in the amount of money the union bosses have to pay themselves and drop into political causes that help their workers not a whit.
So they push to prevent the minimum wage hike from ultimately hurting their bottom lines. But they don’t do it across the board, they seize on an opportunity to actually increase their clout and bargaining power.
See, they are pushing to give those employers who employ their members an unfair advantage in the market—those businesses which employ union workers would have much lower payroll than those who do not, because non-union shops would still be subject to the fully hiked minimum wage. This market advantage would encourage business owners to either automate much more quickly (if it’s even possible) or to employ unionized workers (much more easily done in a pinch). More businesses looking to hire union workers so as to avoid the minimum wage hike would increase the number of dues-paying union members, and suddenly union bosses get even more money with which to pay themselves and to agitate for politicians and policies that have little-to-nothing to do with the well-being of their union members.
Who gets the shaft? Laborers who do not wish to be in a union, and small business owners who treat their employees in such a manner that they have no need for unionization.