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Current Events: Minimum Wage

Friday, September 09, 2005
Today, we learned that Bush suspended the Pay Act that ensures minimum wage for poor Americans. He supposedly did this for companies who are cleaning up Hurricane Katrina damage.

An article from the Washington Post is pasted at the end of this piece (with link).

Other resources include:
Wikipedia: Minimum Wage
Wikipedia: Great Depression
Wikipedia: The New Deal

(Please note that Wikipedia is great, open-source, and an aggregate document that can be modifed by anyone. Academics and historians often make entries here with respect to the sorts of topics in this post but Wiki-entries can be freeped by right-wingers who try to impose their propaganda. Often times the propaganda is removed and the integrity of the entry is restored. As with ANY source, including primary, be a critical reader, ALWAYS.)

I posed a series of questions to Q re: this current event news: What is minimum wage? Why is it important? Who works for minimum wage? Who will work for LESS THAN minimum wage to clean up Hurricane Katrina damage? What questions would you ask Pres. Bush about this?

Her responses are:

It is something you get paid the lowest. (meaning, I think, that this is the least a company can pay a worker)

It is important because people would starve and die.

The poor work for minimum wage, not the rich.

The people who lost their houses and money would work for less than minimum wage to clean up Hurricane Katrina damage.

Her question to Bush: "Why did you get rid of minimum wage?!" (pretty much all there is to say, he needs to make the case to her it seems)

Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005; Page D03

President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Bush of "using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities."

Miller said: "In New Orleans, where a quarter of the city was poor, the prevailing wage for construction labor is about $9 per hour, according to the Department of Labor. In effect, President Bush is saying that people should be paid less than $9 an hour to rebuild their communities."

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