Labor and civil rights leaders told a Senate subcommittee yesterday that a youth subminimum wage would cause more age and race job discrimination, create more profits for fast-food chains, and do little to alleviate unemployment among the young, especially in the nation's inner cities.
But business leaders told the same subcommittee on labor standards that a lower youth wage would create more employment opportunities for the young, help to eliminate youth crime and reduce labor costs for struggling small businesses.
Both sides stuck to their stands in the second and final day of the subcommittee's hearings on three legislative proposals to establish youth subminimum pay. And both brought an ample supply of statistics and rhetoric to defend their claims.
The most colorful combatant in yesterday's war of words was Sol C. "Chick" Chaikin, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, who told the subcommittee that it should take the word "opportunity" out of the youth wage proposals and rename them the "McDonald's Windfall Gifts Amendments."
"The arithmetic on these proposals is astounding," said Chaikin, who added that McDonald's Corp. "stands to gain roughly $329 million" annually in wage savings if subminimum-wage proponents are successful in their attempts to trim the current $3.35 hourly minimum wage by 25 percent. Citing statistics from the accounting firm of Dean Witter, Chaikin said the value of the hamburger kingdom's stock "would jump 31 cents a share" if a youth subminimum wage were introduced.
No one from McDonald's testified at yesterday's hearing. But spokesmen for groups such as The Society of American Florists, the Retail Bakers of America and the National Federation of Independent Business all gave Chaikin's arguments short shrift.