Project 21 Press Release

Contact: Arturo Silva at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]
For Release: July 9, 1996

Increasing the Minimum Wage Kills Jobs for Black Teens Says African-American Group on Day of Senate Minimum Wage Vote

On the day of a July 9 floor vote in the Senate on a proposal to increase the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour, the African-American group Project 21 is warning that the minimum wage is a job killer for black teenagers, and a threat to the survival of many small businesses.

"The minimum wage hinders young men willing to work from getting work," says Project 21 member Jesse Peterson, President of BOND, which helps young black men find jobs. "Although claiming that it hopes to put people to work, this is just another example of government preventing people from getting work. Small businesses already have to worry about training teenagers, and insuring them from work injuries, higher wages only serves as one more reason not to risk hiring teenagers. In 1948, when the minimum wage barely affected the work force, black males aged 16 and 17 had an unemployment rate of 9.4%, compared to 10.2% for whites. In 1995, the unemployment rate for black males of these ages was 37.1% compared to 15.6% for whites. If labor unions are the beneficiaries of the minimum wage, teenagers, especially black teenagers, are the victims."

"More than 644,000 teenagers alone lost jobs when their employers determined they were expendable after minimum wages were raised in 1977," according to Project 21 member Sharon Hodge, an editorial writer for the Greensboro News & Record. "On the surface, raising the minimum wage appears to be a caring act. But in effect, it will put some people out of work while allowing others to earn more without increasing their productivity. That in turn will cripple businesses and raise prices for consumers. Eventually, the minimum wage could deliver a knock-out punch to our economy."

Expecting the minimum wage to pass, Senate Republicans are hoping to reduce a minimum wage increase's impact on the economy by passing a small business exemption amendment sponsored by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO). The exemption would protect small businesses grossing under $500,000 annually from the increase in the minimum wage.

The House has already voted for a minimum wage increase.

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