A billboard says that if San Francisco raises the minimum wage, then iPads will take over our service-sector jobs. And if you can't trust a billboard—whom can you trust?
The political ad in question was first spotted by Pando's Paul Carr, who took the picture above and figured out that the billboard's sponsors were a conservative lobbying group with ties to the restaurant industry called the Employment Policy Institute. According to Carr, the Institute's key adviser is Kevin Murphy, who also advises major technology companies. Or as Carr puts it: "A guy who tells companies like Apple that it’s ok to screw their workers."
As SFist points out, the lobbyists behind the billboard might be lickspittle corporate toadies—but that doesn't necessary mean they are wrong. A recent report from the San Francisco Controller's office suggests that a raise in the minimum wage could cut around 15,000 jobs out of the city's labor market. "To the extent that higher minimum wage raises labor costs, it will create a disincentive to hire employees and would lead to reduced employment,” the report said.
The overall effects on the economy as a whole of increased minimum wages is a controversial topic among economists. The Congressional Budget Office issued a report claiming that an increase in the national minimum wage would mean that "the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly." Other studies, including this seminal one, have found no link between increasing the minimum wage and a drop in employment. This isn't one of those journalistic false equivalency situations: It just depends if you listen to the neo-classical economists—who tend to argue that employment drops—or Keynesian ones, who tend to argue that resulting boost in demand stimulates more jobs in the long run. (The rise of automation and the replacement of low-skill workers by computers or other machines is whole 'nother topic. Suffice to say: We've been automating those jobs for hundreds of years now, the gains have more or less shared, but there's no economic law that says it has to be true forever.)
If you want to really get into the weeds, here's a good primer on the issue from Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. Or, because it's Friday, you could just look at the other billboard that the anti-minimum wage people put up, which features a big ol' picture of Miley Cyrus.