By Walter Williams
Investor's Business Daily
August 30, 2011
The first was the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which mandated minimum wages on federally financed or assisted construction projects.
During the bill's legislative debate, the racial objectives were clear.
Rep. John Cochran, D-Mo., said he had "received numerous complaints . . . about Southern contractors employing low-paid colored mechanics getting work and bringing the employees from the South."
Rep. Clayton Allgood, D-Ala., complained: "Reference has been made to a contractor from Alabama who went to New York with bootleg labor. . . . That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country."
Rep. William Upshaw, D-Ga., spoke of the "superabundance or large aggregation of Negro labor."
American Federation of Labor President William Green said, "Colored labor is being sought to demoralize wage rates."
For decades after Davis-Bacon enactment, black workers on federally financed or assisted construction projects virtually disappeared.
Overall U.S. unemployment is 9.1%. For white adults, it's 8%, and for white teens, 23%. Black adult unemployment stands at 17%, and for black teens, it's 40%, more than 50% in some cities, for example, Washington.
Chapter 3 of "Race and Economics," my most recent book, starts out, "Some might find it puzzling that during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower and blacks were more active in the labor force than they are today."