"Dr. Evil" Is Behind a New NYC Billboard Against Higher Fast-Food Wages
The man behind a new ad that just went up in Times Square is known as “Dr. Evil” by his critics, although he apparently takes pride in the nickname. And no, Mini-Me isn’t his accomplice, and Michael Caine probably isn’t his dad.
Photo via Flickr user Carlos
It's now been over two years since the first New York City strike for better wages for fast-food employees—but Fast Food Forward, the organization behind the initial event, has still not won the $15-an-hour minimum pay for workers that it has been asking for. In fact, advocates and workers still face outspoken opposition to their demands. Now, in the form of billboards.
The man behind a new ad that just went up in Times Square is known as "Dr. Evil" by his critics, although he apparently takes pride in the nickname. And no, Mini-Me isn't his accomplice, and Michael Caine probably isn't his dad.
The enormous new advertisement—which, according to the New York Daily News, appeared on Monday—pictures a bro straight out of the 90s with a backwards cap, Wayfarers, and massive over-the-ear headphones. The text says, "What? I get $30,000 a year with no experience or skills?" At the bottom of the ad, more text delivers the big message: "Who needs an education or hard work when Gov. Cuomo is raising the minimum wage of $15 an hour."
A group innocuously called the "Employment Policies Institute" paid for the ad in question. It is part of their campaign—dubbed "Fast Food Flop"—against the proposed wage hike for fast-food workers that is currently in play in New York State. According to Jordan Bruneau of the Institute, the billboard will stay up for a month and costs a whopping $100,000 (incidentally, that's more than three times the yearly income of a minimum wage earner under the new proposal).
And now, the man behind the Institute has been revealed: his real name is Rick Berman of Berman & Co., a Washington public affairs firm. Berman is a conservative lobbyist and public affairs advisor who has been known to oppose such scourges to society as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Humane Society of the United States. And according to 60 Minutes, Berman actually relishes the fact that his opponents refer to him as "Dr. Evil."
Not only that. The New York Daily News says that Berman's firm has also "used ads and opinion pieces to oppose groups trying to raise awareness on obesity and the dangers of smoking," although the Institute denies Berman has ever taken on the pro-smoking mantle. Does that mean they admit Berman has in fact lobbied against puppies and moms and foes of obesity? Potentially.
Campaigns to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers have so far been successful in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The bump up to $15 an hour in New York would apply to chains with 30 or more stores nationally, and the proposal, which Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York supports, would take effect over the next three years in New York City if the state labor commissioner approves it. Fast food is one of the biggest employers of low-wage workers in New York. The current minimum wage in New York is $8.75 per hour, but is set to go up to $9 next year.
Berman and his cronies argue that $15 per hour—equivalent to an annual salary of about $30,000—is a lot of money. They rented out one of the world's most prominent billboards because they believe the salary hike would "devalue the hard work of people who have worked to get to that $15 wage."
Fifteen dollars per hour would be an improvement for most workers, but according to one report, the CEO of McDonald's made $9,200 per hour in 2013.
Those who support the salary hike say it would keep fast food workers off public assistance. They also point out that the average worker looks less like the frat boy in the billboard and more like Lawrence Williams—a Brooklyn Checkers employee and father of two. He said the ad "just goes to show how out of touch the fast-food companies are with the people who work for them. We're not teenagers working at our first job—we're grown adults, with families to support."
Don't complain to Dr. Evil, Mr. Williams.
Just ask Mothers Against Drunk Driving or the homeless puppies at the Humane Society—Berman's not afraid to take on some pretty sympathetic opponents.