Today, instead of dismantling these arguments on my own I decided to get a little help from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had to fight Republicans, conservative Democrats, the Supreme Court and corporate leaders to pass the initial minimum wage in 1938.
Objection: Raising the minimum wage will hurt business and reduce employment.
“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)
Objection: $10.10 an hour is too much, maybe $9.
“By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)
Objection: Once you add in public assistance and tax credits, $9 an hour is plenty, and business could survive that.
“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” (1938, Fireside Chat, the night before signing the Fair Labor Standards Act that instituted the federal minimum wage)
Objection: The minimum wage is a government mandate that interferes with the free market.
“All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor.” (1937, Message to Congress upon introduction of the Fair Labor Standards Act)
It took five years from F.D.R.’s first inauguration in 1933 to enact the federal minimum wage.