President Carter's proposed minimum wage compromise meets its first legislative today amid an assortment of challenges, including proposals to pay less to teenagers and eliminate automatic future increases.
But Republicans conceded that Carter has a better than even chance of winning approval for his proposal to raise the minimum from $2.30 to $2.63 an hour next year in the House Labor Standards Subcommittee, which is scheduled to act on the legislation today.
"It's altogether likely that the votes are there for $2.65," said Rep. John N. Erlenborn (Ill.), ranking Republican on the subcommittee.
Dersocrats were also predicting approval of the rest of the bill, which, for the first time, would provide automatic annual increases pegged to average manufacturing wages. Under the Carter compromise with organized labor, the wage floor would be 52 per cent of average manufacturing pay (an estimated $2.89) in 1979 and 53 per cent ($3.15) in 1980. After that it would remain 53 per cent indefinitely.
But Erlenborn said fights are expected over the automatic escalator and the bill's ommission of a pay differential for teenagers, a longtime Republican goal that has also attracted some interest among Democrats on the subcommittee. The White House and organized labor oppose such a differential which would permit teenagers to be paid less than adults.
Rep. Albert H. Quie (Minn.), ranking Republican of the parent Education and Labor Committee, said he expects Carter to get his way on the legislation, although Quie predicted that a teenage differential could be added on the House floor if not before. He said support for a differential is growing.
From the Democratic side, Rep. Phillip Burton (Calif.) indicated Tuesday he may push to reach the 53 per cent level before 1980 and expand coverage to include municipal employees and migrant workers. Burton and some other Democrats are also pushing to eliminate the existing credit under which waitresses, waiters and other tipped workers are paid less than the minimum hourly wage.
Carter's surprise announcement of the compromise Tuesday caught both sides off guard. But predictable lineups began emerging yesterday in anticipation of heavy lobbying before the measure - which has been put on a fast legislative track - hits the House floor later this month.
AFL-CIO President George Meany, with whom Labor Secretary Ray Marshall negotiated the compromise, praised Carter and pledged his support.
Meany, who called Carter's earlier advocacy of a $2.50 minimum "shameful," said the President has now "demonstrated his concern for the working poor."
On the other hand, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce accused Carter of having "surrendered to organized labor" on the issue and said the compromsie would, in effect, price teenagers out of the job market.
David L. Shapiro, labor law attorney representing the chamber, said the proposal would contribute to continuing inflation and called the automatic escalator a "robot-like mechanism" and a "cop-out for Congress."