There have been some silly arguments made against the minimum wage before. But Harry Jackson makes one of the, shall we say, most novel ones yet--it's racist.
Did you know that there was a time in our country, after the Civil War, when white unemployment was higher than black unemployment? It seems almost unfathomable now, but that was the case in the early decades of the 20th century. This was intentionally changed after Congress enacted the first federal minimum wage law: the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.Jackson goes on to argue that Davis-Bacon's requirement that workers on federal projects be paid the "prevailing wage" was understood to mean "union wage"--which would effectively lock blacks out of most federal jobs. From what I've been able to dig up, apparently this line is an article of faith among conservatives.
As most of us remember from history class, the 1930s saw a plethora of public works projects introduced to combat the unemployment associated with the Great Depression. (Whether or not this worked is a topic for another day.) But during that time, many impoverished blacks left sharecropping to come north in search of such jobs. The Davis-Bacon Act was created specifically and explicitly to prevent blacks from “taking” these jobs from local white workers.
Congressman Robert Bacon of New York began crafting various pieces of legislation to discriminate against black workers when a black construction crew from Alabama was brought to his state to build a hospital for veterans in 1927. Because most blacks lived in the South, any laws restricting the use of migrant labor discriminated against them. Since blacks were not admitted to trade unions, any law that favored union labor automatically excluded blacks. Bacon submitted 13 such bills over the next four years, culminating in the Davis-Bacon Act.
What they don't tell you, however, is that Bacon was prompted to introduce the bill because the workers were forced to live and work in appalling conditions. They were forced to live in shacks and paid almost comically low wages. Even more telling--Bacon and the "Davis" in Davis-Bacon, Senator James Davis, were Republicans. This was back in the day, of course, when there were Republicans who cared about workers' rights as much as Democrats do today.
Jackson then spouts the standard right-wing shibboleth that a minimum wage makes companies less willing to hire people.
Labor is affected by supply and demand just like anything else. If we pass a law that raises the cost of printer paper to $100 a ream, companies will find a way to use less printer paper. In the same way, when the law raises the cost of labor, companies purchase fewer hours of labor.Gee--has it occurred to Jackson that when workers have more money to spend, it helps break the cycle of dependency? I thought Republicans were supposed to be the party of personal responsibility.
Larger corporations may relocate their operations to countries without such laws, and smaller businesses may start paying workers “under the table” in cash. This means that law-abiding American workers will find their hours cut—or worse yet, they will lose their jobs. And those most likely to be affected are the teenagers and lower skilled minorities who hold most entry-level positions.