The National Restaurant Association Spends Big to Keep Wages Low

A majority of the Senate voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour recently, yet the bill failed to clear the 60 vote hurdle necessary for passage — thanks in no small part to the political power of the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry’s trade association.

For years, the “Other NRA” has flexed its political muscle to keep wages low and to freeze the tipped minimum wage at just $2.13 per hour. Plus, thanks to non-stop NRA lobbying, the House last month passed a bill changing the threshold for employer-provided coverage under the Affordable Care Act to deny healthcare to employees who work 30 hours per week.

This is thanks in no small part to the Other NRA’s super-sized political giving. According to an analysis by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROCUnited), the $683 billion industry’s trade association itself has poured $12.6 million directly into federal politicians’ campaign coffers since 1989. NRA member organizations have chipped-in around $51 million more: McDonald’s, for example, has given $5.8 million to federal politicians, Darden (parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Capitol Grille) $5.6 million, and Wendy’s $2.3 million. The biggest spender is NRA member Walt Disney; the creator of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck disclosed $14.1 million in contributions since 1989.

The NRA has also spent millions on the state level. It has worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) to quash local efforts to enact paid sick leave ordinances — in Oklahoma, for example, the state NRA affiliate worked with Governor Mary Fallin (an ALEC alum) to crush both paid sick leave ordinances and minimum wage ordinances in one fell swoop.