Hansen’s History: ‘Reactionaries’ block minimum wage

Reprinted from the January 1973 Rocky Mountain Teamster

Labor leaders leveled bitter attacks at “reactionaries” in Congress and the Nixon Administration after the House of Representatives refused to send its minimum-wage bill to conference with the Senate.

The House, through a team up of Republicans and Southern Democrats, voted 196-188 against the motion to let the House’s version of a minimum wage hike to be subjected to a conference with a Senate passed measure.

Representative Carl D. Perkins (D.-Ky.), Labor Committee chairman, who lost an earlier try at getting the bill to conference, feared the latest rebuff would kill minimum wage legislation for this session.

The Senate bill, backed by labor, would raise the present $1.60 an hour minimum to $2.20 over two years and extend coverage to six million more workers, including domestics and state and local government employees.

The Senate also would raise the minimum for factory-farm workers to $2.20 over three years. The House bill would raise the overall minimum to $2 an hour.

It would not extend coverage or increase the farm workers minimum. It also includes a provision sought by President Nixon to let employers hire 16- and 17- year-old youths at a special $1.60 wage.

AFL-CIO President George Meany pointed out that opponents of a “decent minimum wage” required a guarantee that this sub-minimum would be in the final bill approved by Congress as the “the price” for allowing the House bill to go to conference.

“We rejected this outrageous demand,” Meany said. “It is obvious that it would do nothing to improve the American standard of living. Rather it would subsidize America’s worst employers, who would fire fathers to hire sons and pocket a 40-cent-an-hour differential.”

Promising that the AFL-CIO “will not let this issue drop,” Meany said the death of minimum wage legislation is a clear reason why unions must work for the defeat of reactionary members of the House who voted for the Administration’s intolerable position.”

In other developments:
President David Seldon of the American Federation of Teachers blamed the Republican leadership in the House, supported by the Administration for keeping the House bill from conference. He charged that the situation exposes the “true plans for working people if President Nixon is re-elected.”

President Jerry Wurf of the State, County and Municipal Employees characterized the House’s hold-back as a “slap in the face” for public employees.

He also said the major blame falls on the GOP in the House and “the anti-labor forces who dominate the Executive Branch of government under Richard Nixon.”

Representatives John Dent (R-Pa.), a strong opponent of the youth sub-minimum, said that “conglomerate restaurants” were the main lobbyists in the House to prevent a conference.

He identified “McDonald’s hamburger shops” as the chief contact for all of the conglomerates opposing the Senate bill.

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