Today in the Washington D.C., Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he did not believe in the minimum wage and compared it to welfare. Instead, he wants to increase the earned income tax credit to help the poor. He didn’t explain how a person making less money would be helped by the credit.
Huffington Post, which reported Senator Alexander’s comment, offered a second article examining the ways employers evade paying the minimum wage. One method of doing this is by classifying employers in a way gets around the law, including calling them contractors, which also lets employers dodge tax obligations. Between 2004 and 2011, the number of federal suits related to the minimum wage has nearly doubled.
What is the value of work? We need to answer that question, especially in a time when unemployment makes many low wage, low skill workers open to exploitation. Justice and morality require a minimum wage – except for Senators from Tennessee.
Slavery is dead? A story has come out over the last few days about worker exploitation at a leading convenience chain.* The stores are franchised, and owners of 14 franchise locations in New York and Virginia have been arrested for worker exploitations. Undocumented immigrants were forced to work as much as 100 hours per week and given only a fraction of the salary they earned.
However sickening this story is, it also demonstrates how low some people will sink to make money. Unethical employers frequently mistreat low wage workers and undocumented workers. We need strong laws to protect workers – including those who are undocumented – against such exploitation.
This story reminds me that some conservatives argue against the minimum wage. Do they also advocate repealing the 13th Amendment? Do they have any value for the work people do?
* I’m not mentioning the chain’s name because it doesn’t deserve negative publicity in this case. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m not a fan of big corporations. In this case, however, it is not responsible for the problem. Going forward, I hope the corporation establishes some system to ensure that franchise owners treat employees properly – and pay them.
P.S. According to Laura Clawson in Daily Kos, there may be as many as 40 stores involved in the investigation. Clawson is less forgiving toward the corporation than I am. Her story is worth your time.