On Monday, a weird billboard went up in Times Square bizarrely arguing that Governor Cuomo’s plan to pay fast-food workers $15 an hour is a bad move, because it will empower people with “no experience or skills.” Tone-deafness aside, its appearance raised questions about the Employment Policies Institute that’s purportedly behind the ad. Thankfully, the Daily News has done the gumshoeing.
It’s apparently a front group run by Richard Berman, a PR man nicknamed “Dr. Evil” because his past work includes defending Big Tobacco and sparring with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (60 Minutes once described the general consensus on him as “sleazy, greedy, outrageous, deceptive, ineffective except when it comes to making money for yourself,” and otherwise “one of the scariest people in America.”) His group’s billboard, which cost $100,000, reads: “Who needs an education or hard work when Gov. Cuomo is raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour?” It features a headphones-wearing dork next to a text block says, “What? I get $30,000 a year with no experience or skills?”
Cuomo’s spokesperson did little more than dismiss the outfit as a “right-wing think tank,” but even that might be too generous, considering the Times calls it “a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman.” Regardless, it’s unclear exactly whose mind its six-figure billboard is changing about minimum-wage pay.