BELL VIEW-In 1923, in the case of Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, the Supreme Court held the federal minimum wage unconstitutional because it infringed on “the liberty of contract,” which the Court ruled was encompassed within the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In other words, the minimum wage interfered with workers’ ability to compete on wages.
Labor laws like minimum wage and the right to collective bargaining are based on a fundamental assumption: that competition among workers serves only to drive down wages. It makes sense, right? That’s the natural effect of competition. And, since individual workers can’t leverage their individual labor the way a business can continue to grow without artificial limits, the “labor market” is the only market that truly acts in the way most people think unfettered markets tend to work.
In other words, unlike industry – where unfettered competition tends to lead, inexorably, to monopoly – unfettered competition in the labor market inevitably suppresses wages. Unlike, say, Walmart, which can open a store in every small town across America and drive out all competition by taking advantage of economies of scale unavailable to small business-owners – an individual worker can only work so many hours in a day. There are no economies of scale available to individuals.
Ultimately, the liberty of contract – the philosophical underpinning of today’s “Right to Work” laws – is nothing more than the freedom to stay poor.
My progressive friends keep telling me this is the moment to take a stand on issues like a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare. And while I support both ideas, I think we need to differentiate between taking a stand and committing suicide. The question presenting itself today is not whether we are going to establish a $15 minimum wage, but whether we will keep the minimum wage at all. The Chamber of Commerce has been waiting since 1937 (the year the Supreme Court reversed the Adkins decision) to bring us the liberty of contract we’ve been clamoring for since the last Gilded Age.
On a side note, the United Foxes of America are putting together a Henhouse Protection Act for Trump’s signature.
Wise up people: there is only one thing that’s going to prevent the Koch Brothers from taking over the government and that is to elect a majority of Democrats to the House and Senate in 2018. You can elect Bernie Sanders all day long in 2020, and he won’t be able to get anything past a six or seven-member majority on the Supreme Court. Universal Healthcare? Minimum wage? Money out of politics? No. No. And no.
Freedom, that’s why.
Over and over we keep hearing that 2018 will be a Democratic wave. Republicans, we’re told, are in a cold sweat. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I feel like the guy standing in the dark waiting for the fire department to show up as my house goes up in flames. This is it. There is no second chance. 2016 was it too – but this is really it.
We need to be strategic and we need to be Democrats. That’s the only choice left. We can’t have five Democrats splitting the vote in Darrell Issa’s old district. Darrell’s ilk has to go. We can’t have 29% voter turnout – like they just had in Illinois – where 20,000 Republicans voted for an actual Nazi! The time has come to put aside all differences and join the team. We have no choice.
(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.