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49 years ago: Raising the minimum wage would mean fewer jobs in my department stores

12:47 AM, Nov. 23, 2013  |  Comments
The argument about whether minimum wage hikes are good for workers or not isn't new. It was a topic of debate on this opinion page in 1964.
The argument about whether minimum wage hikes are good for workers or not isn't new. It was a topic of debate on this opinion page in 1964.
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Each Monday, we turn to a day in the newspaper's history for a look at what the Editorial Board found worthy of comment. We will preserve the punctuation and capitalization of the original editorial column. Here is what we wrote on Dec. 2, 1964.

The Minimum Wage

We have received some interesting corroboratory evidence concerning our Nov. 13 editorial which discussed the minimum wage law and indicated that worker productivity and wage levels are inseparable.

The new first-hand evidence comes from Chester O. Bell, president of Johnson Hill's Inc., which operates department stores in Wisconsin and Iowa, including one here. Read what Mr. Bell has to say:

"As the operator of department stores in Wisconsin and Iowa I must endorse what you say from first-hand experience. As the minimum wage is hiked beyond the productive capacity of individuals, it becomes a duty and necessity for us to eliminate these people from our employment because we are unable to raise prices as is the case in many manufacturing operations. In reality, it works out that the people are let go and it becomes difficult for them to find employment because of the fact that other people in our industry are doing exactly what we are doing, in this respect.

"In our company, it has always been our intent to try to raise the productivity of individuals so that their earnings can be above the minimum wage. In most cases this takes time and it takes training on the job. If the minimum wage is such that you cannot afford to do this, many of these people will not find available employment and will not be able to make their contribution to the economy's overall production."

Proponents of higher minimum wage levels tend to pooh-pooh this argument. We think they are wrong and that increases in minimum wages in the recent past have contributed materially to the nation's chronic unemployment situation.

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