Democrats call for an end to labor practices they see as rooted in racism | national

Some House Democrats are pushing Congress to extend labor protections for domestic, farm and tip workers, whose exclusion from federal labor laws was part of what they called a racist ploy to bolster Southern support to the New Deal.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt has shut out industries heavily populated by black workers to buy the support of Southern lawmakers needed to pass legislation establishing the backbone of federal labor protections, including paid overtime and minimum wage, Democrats said in a House hearing on Monday. Worker Protection Education and Labor Subcommittee.

“By excluding jobs held by black and brown workers from basic worker protection, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has injected institutional racism into a federal wage and hours law,” said the president of the Alma Adams subcommittee, DN.C. “These exclusions deprived workers of color of economic security for the next three decades.”

Adams highlighted three bills that would correct racist exclusions in federal labor laws, including a bill introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., That would eliminate the separate minimum wage for tipping workers and would raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 per year. hour; 2019 legislation introduced by committee member Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington that would make live-in domestic workers eligible for overtime pay; and a bill introduced that year by Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., which would do the same for agricultural workers.

Adams said her mother and grandmother cleaned houses, so she knew about the financial hardships of housework.

“I know it because I’ve been through it,” she says. “I saw with my own eyes how impossible it was for them to make ends meet and how impossible it was for them to meet basic needs, let alone live comfortably.

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Center, said Congress was using sectors dominated by black workers – domestic, farm and hotel jobs – as an indicator of the race to exclude African Americans from labor protection.

“This exclusion depressed the wages of black workers, effects still present today in the persistent generational wage and wealth gaps,” she said.

Subsequent expansions of federal law extended some provisions to these sectors, but resident domestic workers and agricultural workers still do not have paid overtime and tips are subject to a lower minimum wage. Some states have extended protections to these sectors by eliminating a separate minimum wage for tip workers or requiring overtime for farm workers.

Republicans and their witness Paul DeCamp, an attorney for Epstein Becker & Green PC, said policies pushed by Democrats would kill jobs and hurt young, low-skilled workers the most in the rural south.

“Much of the public debate about $ 15 an hour assumes that one breadwinner struggles to lift a family out of poverty. The reality is that most of the people earning minimum wage are young and not supporting their families, ”DeCamp said. He worked as an administrator of the Wages and Working Hours Division of the Department of Labor from 2006 to 2007.

Republicans have also said extending paid overtime to farm workers would undermine family farms and the competitiveness of the United States relative to countries with lower farm labor costs.

“The nature of farm work, especially harvesting, requires long hours in a relatively short season, making jobs generally unsuitable for overtime,” DeCamp said. “Most farmers would eventually see a dramatic increase in labor costs, leading to higher food prices for consumers.”

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