Minimum Wage has Racist History, Should Not Exist in America

By Drake Lundstrom

The minimum wage should not exist. 

If that statement fills you with disgust, rage and revolution, allow me to give some factual arguments.

The first thing everyone needs to know about the minimum wage is the history behind it. The modern-day left often supports raising the minimum wage as a way to benefit minorities, but they forget the extremely racist origins of the minimum wage.

“In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry,”

…wrote Thomas Sowell, an African-American economist, in The New York Post.

“A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to ‘protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese’ who were willing to work for less.”

“In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.”

This discrimination is also clearly seen in the U.S., especially during the era of the first major minimum wage law: the Davis-Bacon Act. The law, which was enacted in 1931, was designed to fix the “problem” that over 80 percent of unskilled construction workers, being black, were forcing the white, unionized construction workers out of jobs.

“I have received numerous complaints in recent months about southern contractors employing low-paid colored mechanics getting work and bringing the employees from the South,”

complained Rep. John Cochran (D-Missouri) in a 1930 congressional hearing.

The law was made with a very simple idea: If the cost of a worker is forced high enough, then it is not worth the money to hire less skilled African-American workers, and construction companies will instead hire the white unionized ones.

The fact is that the minimum wage has a racist origin and that it was created for the explicit purpose of protecting white workers.

The racially harmful effects of the minimum wage can be seen in its results as well as the intentions of its creators.

In 1948, a time when the minimum wage was only $3.09 per hour (in 2013 dollars), the unemployment rate for white 16- to 17-year-olds was 10.2 percent, while that for black 16- to 17-year-olds was 9.4 percent. Among white 18- to 19-year-olds, unemployment was 9.4 percent, and for black 18- to 19-year-olds it was 10.5 percent.

In fact, from 1900 to 1950, black workers were more active in the labor market than whites.

However, in the decades following the War on Poverty’s minimum wage increases, black teen unemployment has been consistently around double that of white teen unemployment and has never again fallen below 20 percent.  White teen unemployment is currently about 20 percent and black teen unemployment is at 40 percent.

If racism has caused this disparity, I would love to hear anyone try to explain how the U.S. was less racist in 1948.


Originally appeared at The News Record

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