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Denny's Higher-Up Wrongly Asserts Raising Minimum Wage Drives Up Crime

He made the specious argument before the Emeryville City Council.


Chain restaurants have made all kinds of arguments against an increased minimum wage, citing everything from layoffs to stalled expansion plans, but here's a new one: according to the East Bay Express, a Denny's higher-up made the case to Emeryville's City Council that raising the minimum wage would increase the city's crime rate. William Woods, a Denny's regional manager whose purview encompasses all of Southern and parts of Northern California, told the City Council that he believed the proposed Emeryville wage increase (to a living wage of $14.03/hour, up from $9 for most area workers) would bring a "crime element" into the area—even though Emeryville boasts only one Denny's, located right off the I-80 freeway.

In his argument to the City Council (which begins at 1:50:38 on this video), Woods asserts that the area of West L.A. near LAX suffered a 15% crime-rate bump in the first three months after raising the minimum wage, with residents of Inglewood, Watts, Compton, and Laguna preying on workers with higher salaries. "[The wage increase] brought the people from that portion of the city over to the area to be what they call the gallopers on top of the people who are making the wage," he told the City Council.

But according to an EBX interview with Kent Wong of the UCLA Labor Center, Woods appears to have all his facts wrong. For starters, the minimum-wage increase Woods discussed (to $15.37 an hour) only applied to employees of large hotel chains in greater L.A., not to all workers in West L.A. What's more, none of the neighborhoods Woods mentioned are anywhere near West L.A.—but they are largely black and Latino. "It has nothing to do with race," Woods asserted to the EBX in a phone call this morning. "Those are just cities that are near [west L.A.]" He also added that it is not Denny's corporate policy to oppose local minimum wage laws.

Denny's doesn't have the best track record when it comes to discrimination: the company reached a $54 million settlement in 1994 after numerous black customers sued for racial discrimination, and the company has also paid millions to settle lawsuits alleging discrimination against female employees (in 2002) and disabled customers (in 2011). It also cut staff in San Jose after a minimum-wage increase there. Denny's HQ didn't respond to the EBX's request for comment; it remains to be seen whether Woods, or the company as a whole, will present any data to back up their argument. Meanwhile, it appears that the minimum-wage increase, which is supported by Emeryville's mayor, remains likely to pass, as similar increases already have in neighboring Oakland and San Francisco.


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