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Minimum Thought

With Nancy Pelosi soon to lead the charge to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, let’s visit a short-bit of history from the minimum wage’s most ardent supporter – the activist group Acorn.

Founded by union organizer Wade Rathke in 1970, Acorn boasts an annual budget of some $40 million and operates everything from “social justice” radio stations to an affordable-housing arm. It is best known for its campaigns against Wal-Mart, and for leading initiatives in six states to raise the minimum wage….

Acorn’s manual for minimum-wage campaigns says it intends “to push for as high a wage as possible.”

But it doesn’t pay those wages itself.

In 1995 Acorn unsuccessfully sued California to be exempt from the minimum wage, claiming that “the more that Acorn must pay each individual outreach worker . . . the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire.” Mr. Rathke apparently believes that economics applies only to his organization and not to the greedy for-profits in the real world.

In 2005 Acorn had workers in Missouri sign contracts saying they would be “working up to 80 hours over seven days of work.” Mr. Rathke says “We pay as much as we can. If people can get more elsewhere, we wish them well.”

To call this hypocrisy does the term injustice. It doesn’t stop at the minimum wage – for a group that is at the forefront of trying to unionize Wal-Mart – it would not allow one of its own community organizers in Detroit to form a union with her co-workers. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union in 2003.

I don’t see low-income workers storming the Mall in DC demanding higher wages. But I see lots of people claiming to speak on their trampled behalf. What are the values of people who ardently support the minimum wage and union efforts, but refuse to deny these “rights” to their own employees?

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