After 75 Years, the Working Poor Still Struggle for a Fair Wage NYTIMES OPINION
After 75 Years, the Working Poor Still Struggle for a Fair Wage
By ADAM COHEN
Published: June 17, 2008
At the height of the Great Depression, industry convinced President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress to enact a law allowing companies to collude to drive up prices. To balance out this giveaway to big business, the law gave workers something that they had long been fighting for: the first federal minimum wage.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the National Industrial Recovery Act — which Roosevelt signed June 16, 1933, at the end of his famous first 100 days — and of the federal minimum wage.
ensuring that people who work hard can achieve a reasonable standard of living.
The minimum wage continues to have powerful enemies. Businesses that pay low wages lobby strongly against increases, arguing that they cause jobs to disappear. The Bush administration has been hostile. When Elaine Chao was nominated to be the next labor secretary, she called for states to be able to opt out of the federal minimum wage — which would destroy the whole idea of a national minimum wage.
the minimum wage — which reaches $7.25 an hour in 2009 — is still far below where it was in the 1960s, in real dollars.
The minimum wage can play a vital role in lifting hard-working families above the poverty line. But as Roosevelt understood, it is also about something larger: what kind of country America wants to be.
“A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy,” he said in the Congressional message that accompanied the Fair Labor Standards Act, can plead “no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages.”
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