Why We Need to Question the Chamber’s “Experts”

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Erc Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Eric Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is working hard to defeat Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2020. Part of its opposition involves chamber president Diane Schwenke running TV ads against the measure in which the chamber claims “90,000 Colorado jobs” would be lost if the measure passes.

Who is “Dr. Fruits”?

The chamber’s “90,000-jobs-lost” figure comes from “Eric Fruits,” of “Economics International Corps.” Fruits is a part time economic consultant who works out of his home and also works part time as an adjunct professor at Portland State University (PSU).

Adjunct professors, also called “contingent professors,” are not tenured. They are typically low-paid, part-time contract workers who rank below “assistant” and “associate” professors. Adjuncts typically don’t receive any health insurance or other benefits through their workplace and are often paid less than pet sitters.

There are additional hints that Mr. Fruits might not be the esteemed economic expert the chamber would like Grand Junctionites to believe he is.

A website called RateMyProfessors.com shows Mr. Fruits has earned an overall rating from students at PSU of 3.3 out of a possible 5.0.

Here are some student reviews of Mr. Fruits, which indicate some uncertainty about whether he is an economist or an urban studies professor:

–“Professor Fruits is egotistical and sarcastic. He tries too hard to be interesting but ends up being just plain annoying. Grades are based on only two tests, which can have tricky questions.”

–“Good: Fruits is entertaining, grades fairly, and has interactive lectures. Bad: is an Urban Studies professor and not an Economics professor, so often got econ basics a little wrong (or kind of scoffed at them).”

–“Doesn’t prep the students well enough for his exams.Too egotistical and interjects his political views in class.”

–“Dr. Fruits is a very animated and enthusiastic lecturer. Exams are somewhat difficult but if you read the questions carefully and have a grasp on basic economic concepts they are tolerable. He is an economist (despite what posts indicate otherwise) and successfully integrates his expertise into the study of urban areas. Interesting class.”

Oh, and Mr. Fruits also works as an Uber driver on the side:

The chamber's economic expert, Eric Fruits of Portland, Oregon, works as an Uber driver on the side

The chamber’s chosen economic expert, Eric Fruits of Portland, Oregon, works as an Uber driver on the side


One must wonder why the chamber had to go all the way out of state to find a hack — um, I mean consultant — who would come up with a job-loss figure that would fit with the doom-and-gloom paradigm they are projecting in their anti-Amendment 70 ads. One also has to wonder why the chamber chose to ignore a flood of recent research done in hundreds of jurisdictions that shows an increase in the minimum wage doesn’t cause massive job losses and can actually boost the local economy, and why Ms. Schwenke ignored over 600 economists, including seven nobel prize winners who said:

“…the weight of evidence now show[s] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

Maybe there aren’t any economists in Colorado who agree with Diane Schwenke.

And besides, taking its own business out of the state is often how the G.J. chamber prefers to do its business.


  9 comments for “Why We Need to Question the Chamber’s “Experts”

  1. You cannot really generalize tipped employees as there are definitely (at least) two different kinds of restaurant servers/bartenders. You have your average pub/restaurant and you have fine dining/farm to table establishments.
    I of course don’t expect a person who has never worked in the industry to know the difference, but as a person who has been employed by both for over 15 years, there is a HUGE difference. You know the chains who now employ computers at their tables, I don’t think “Josh” works or employs people in this kind of restaurant. Many people understand the kind of training, education and skill it takes to manage a section and answer every question about the menu, wine, drinks, time your food, make sure every person has the best experience possible, all while being “on stage” with a smile on your face. A fine dining restaurant job is a grueling full time career. I am taking shit from the kitchen, my manager, my customers, and they all think I’m incompetent. No, my kitchen loves me and my boss is cool, but you can’t imagine the stress levels that a server goes through. In fact a recent study has just come out that claims that servers have the equivalent stress levels to a brain surgeon. Get to know your server, I bet 8/10 times they have a college degree, or a culinary background, they aren’t idiots, and no I don’t expect 15-20% I’m offended if I don’t get more than 20% because I’m that good at my job. “We” as a service industry culture understand that. It is not easy, and it’s that mentality from customers that made me leave the industry. I loved my type of work, but was sick of being treated like an entry level employee.
    Until average restaurant go-ers can realize that they have an expert representing an amazing restaurant in front of them instead of a high school dropout we need to make sure these people are making an average of 35K a year, they deserve it! Thanks for guaranteeing that to your employees, more owners should be so respectful!
    A $12 minimum wage only actually raises wages for servers by 24%, but I do understand that the increase would put a big damper on a small business owner’s bottom line.

  2. We are usually eye to eye. With that said, this bill isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.you really don’t have to look far to find opposition to it. In the most simple of laymans terms, imagine you are at a restaurant. Every hourly employee there makes $12-15 an hour, all the servers make $5 an hour plus tips. Tips average for Mesa county for full time is an additional $35,000 a year on top of the $5 an hour. This bill raises their wages 70%. That means every hourly employee will now either be cut back or hired at lower wages to make up for the increase in tipped income paid to the servers (who are already making much more than them) thus, in the largest industry in the state, this bill loses jobs, lowers the average hourly working wage, and benefits the ones that don’t actually need it the most. Secondly, most entry level part time minimum wage jobs Are exactly that, entry level positions for unskilled labor (think teens and students). This bill kills their potential jobs as now the field is far more competitive. Lastly, and imo most importantly, the 70% increase in tipped laborer wages really only adds to tax collection. Those servers will never see that money as it will be pulled from their checks to cover their tax liability as soon as their tips are claimed. As it stands, tipped employees are guaranteed minimum wage by supplementation by their employer of claimed tips don’t cover the difference, which is the right way to go, but pulling from the hourly to pay the tipped is not, it essentially burdens small businesses at the expense of skilled labor for the benefit of state sales tax collection.

    Let me be clear, I pride myself on paying well above average, creating and maintaining full time service industry jobs with a higher than county and state pay average for said positions and an 100% in favor of an increased minimum wage. Regardless of the corrupt chambers stance, this bill isn’t how we do it.

    • Of course they could also do away with the tipped employee structure and go to an actual hourly wage paid regardless.

      I think this would be the most beneficial to all involved as it’s been my experience that wait staff have come to expect 15%-20% just because they’re there. They’ve either forgotten what the purpose of a tip is or simply disregard it. Go to an hourly wage structure and I doubt service will be profoundly impacted as they don’t perform their job with an eye toward getting higher tips anyway.

      • They = society
        As soon as society, demands restaurants will follow. Once they do, prices will increase 20% regardless of service thus, the customers don’t win. However this is a much larger national conversation with little relevance to the poorly written bill that is not good for our economy, job growth or fair pay.

        • They = the restaurant owners.

          Who said anything about the customer winning? Prices at restaurants increase regardless of the wait staff being tipped and people still go to them.

          Now you’re going to say it’s a much larger national conversation with little relevance to the local issue? Why did you even introduce tipped versus non tipped if it has little relevance to the local issue?

          • This bill increases tipped employee wage by 70%.

            If tipped employees increase by 70% there will be less money to pay the hourly workers. Less money to pay them equals less jobs, less hours or lower actual pay to make up for the huge increase to tipped employees. This bill doesn’t take away tipping.

            I pay on average $15/hr. I spend roughly the same on tipped and hourly labor. If this passes, tipped labor increases by 70%. My choices are, spend less on service, pay less for hourly, or raise my prices (a lot) to cover it.

            I will introduce a no tipping full service concept to the valley, but it only works for special occasion type dining. In the meantime, $50k/yr tipped servers will not be sticking around for $12/hr and no tips, and $40k/yr cooks are going to be non existent if I have to pay servers that much. While this may seem as an anti server view, the reality is, minimum wage should increase for non tipped employees. Without question. Tipped employees are in line with national averages and adjusting their base pay doesn’t equal a higher living wage as the increase will be used to offset their tax obligations and the increase will be collected through payroll. Every scenario results in the same result. Not actually increasing pay for actual minimum wage employees.

  3. “One must wonder why the chamber had to go all the way out of state to find a hack — um, I mean consultant”

    Maybe Schwenke et al. forgot that there’s such a thing as the internet and Google available to the masses and were hoping they’d be able to pull the wool over people’s eyes?

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