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Rahm Emanuel Makes Good Money Opposing the $15 Minimum Wage

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This story is co-published with The Daily Poster

One speech to the National Restaurant Association could earn more than a minimum wage worker earns in a year. Former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Fox Business Network studios on August 01, 2019 in New York City.
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is recycling an old Republican plan to let states opt out of a higher minimum wage, even as he reportedly keeps floating his name for a Biden administration appointment. Now he’s scheduled to headline the annual conference of one of the major corporate lobbying groups fighting against congressional Democrats’ $15 minimum wage legislation.

The National Restaurant Association, the lobbying group which led the fight to block a minimum wage increase in the COVID-19 relief bill passed last month, will be hosting Emanuel as a keynote speaker for the group’s virtual conference on April 20, an event entitled: “Seeking Unity: Conversations on How We Can Come Together.”

The speaking slot follows Emanuel’s Washington Post op-ed last month arguing that omitting a minimum wage increase from the American Rescue Plan was not a big deal, and asserting that Democrats should work with Republicans on a plan that does not guarantee $15 nationwide.

The National Restaurant Association opposed the inclusion of the Raise the Wage Act in Democrats’ recent COVID relief legislation, writing in February to congressional leaders: “We share your view that a national discussion on wage issues for working Americans is needed—but the Raise the Wage Act is the wrong bill at the wrong time for our nation’s restaurants.”

Emanuel’s recent rhetoric about the minimum wage tracks with his behavior over many decades.

During his time as a top aide in Bill Clinton’s administration, Emanuel advised the president against supporting a plan by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy to raise the minimum wage to $7.25, according to a 1998 White House memo reviewed by The Daily Poster.

Emanuel served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010. While Obama pledged to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 during the 2008 presidential campaign, he didn’t push to do so during his first two years in office, when Democrats had full control of Congress.

While mayor of Chicago, Emanuel remained silent on the issue of a minimum wage for the first three years of his term, and only backed an increase after facing pressure on the campaign trail to do so. He ultimately supported a $13 minimum wage in the city, but some alleged that he short-circuited a statewide minimum wage increase.

Emanuel’s time as mayor ended in scandal, after city officials suppressed video footage of the police murder of teenager Laquan McDonald. Now he’s a senior advisor at the investment banking firm Centerview Partners and an ABC News contributor.

Conference agendas show Emanuel is also a regular on the D.C. speaking circuit. The Harry Walker Agency, the speakers bureau that exclusively books Emanuel now, does not disclose his speaking fee, but suggests booking Emanuel in tandem with Karl Rove.

An old AAE Speakers bio page for Emanuel, since deleted, listed his fee last year as $50,000-$100,000, according to the American Prospect. If that number is correct, Emanuel would earn at least three times more for one quick speech than a minimum wage worker earns over the course of an entire year.

Earlier this month, Emanuel was scheduled to speak at the Credit Union National Association alongside his ABC News pundit roundtable colleague, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie and Emanuel spoke together last year at an event hosted by the National Association of Realtors.

Emanuel was separately scheduled to speak last year at a conference held by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a lobbying group for fossil fuel interests and chemical companies, but the event was canceled due to COVID.

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