Thursday, January 25, 2007

Senate GOP Leadership Tries To Eliminate Federal Minimum Wage

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), evidently convinced that he was beating a dead horse by continuing his quest to ban flag-burning and discriminate against gay people, announced this month that he would not seek reelection in 2008 and the thought of having so little time left to screw the working poor from a comfy U.S. Senate seat must have just been eating him alive.

Allard, who has voted against a minimum wage increase more often than Fox News smears Barack Obama, went for broke this week and introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Federal Minimum Wage entirely and left the wage rate for the lowest-paid workers to each state.

In Kansas, this would mean that workers would revert to the state-mandated minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, which is currently superseded by the federal minimum of $5.15.

"In its current form, the bill attempts to blindly blanket the Nation with a new Federal minimum wage without regard to unique economic conditions of each individual State," said Allard in fighting the proposed $2.10 increase in the federal minimum wage. "Less Government intervention, at all levels, enables the private sector to attract, recruit, and retain the best possible employees and reward increased productivity and responsibility with higher compensation."

So, according to Allard, employees in all states should expect that the good-hearted nature of business would compensate them in a way that's fair and just -- yeah, that notion has worked out well for us in the past. He also contends that it's unfair for the federal government to mandate a whopping $7.25 per hour when those people in Kansas know damn good and well that they can support their families on just $2.65.

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed and Allard's disgusting legislation was killed, but with 28 Republican Senators voting in favor of no federal oversight of the lowest wage an American worker can be paid.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who has long been the champion of the working poor, must have felt like slapping Allard, but was content to just publicly rebuke him.

"If we accepted the amendment of the Senator, it would effectively eliminate the minimum wage as we know it," said Kennedy in opposing Allard's bill. "We have tried to be not only the strongest economy in the world but one that is going to respect workers and workers' rights and workers' interests and workers' families. The minimum wage does not do so at the present time, but many of us will continue to battle to try to make sure it does. The Allard amendment brings us all in the opposite direction."

What's also instructive is the small number of words that it can take to move a country backwards… Allard's measure was very short and sweet and, in the following 56 words, would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to eliminate federal wage protection for low-income workers:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an employer shall not be required to pay an employee a wage that is greater than the minimum wage provided for by the law of the State in which the employee is employed and not less than the minimum wage in effect in that State on January 1, 2007.''.
It doesn't take much, does it?

And here's yet another point where Americans should breathe a massive sigh of relief that they had the smarts to elect a Democratic Congress in November.

Update: Here's the 28 Senators who voted yesterday to eliminate the Federal Minimum Wage.