A Minimum Wage for Thee, But Not for Me

A Minimum Wage for Thee, But Not for Me October 22, 2008

ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has been much in the news of late, as the group is being investigated by the FBI and by the state’s of Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, and Washington for possible voter registration fraud. Some have claimed that ACORN is trying to swing the election in favor of Senator Obama via illegal means. Others claim that ACORN is a good group, unfairly maligned by Republicans desperate to distract attention from their own dismal election prospects.

My familiarity with the group dates from a case a few years ago in California involving the minimum wage. You see, in addition to its voter registration activities, ACORN is a big advocate and agitator in favor of living wage ordinances, which it has helped to pass in several localities. In 1995, however, the group sued for an exemption to California’s $4.25 an hour minimum wage, claiming that the law was unconstitutional (only as applied to them). According to the Court, ACORN sought to justify it’s position as follows:

ACORN contends that California’s minimum wage laws, while facially constitutional as supported by the compelling state interest of ensuring wages adequate to maintain a decent standard of living (see Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, (1980) 27 Cal.3d 690, 701), are unconstitutional as applied to ACORN because they restrict ACORN’s ability to engage in political advocacy. According to ACORN, this adverse impact will be manifested in two ways: first, ACORN will be forced to hire fewer workers; second, its workers, if paid the minimum wage, will be less empathetic with ACORN’s low and moderate income constituency and will therefore be less effective advocates.

ACORN v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. App. 4th 298, 300-01 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1995).

The first argument is, of course, the main argument used by opponents of the minimum wage, namely, that forcing businesses to pay above market wages will mean that fewer workers will be hired. The second argument (that paying workers more would make them less empathetic with ACORN’s “low and moderate income constituency”) is one no self-respecting opponent of the minimum wage would ever be caught making. (In case you’re wondering, the Court rejected ACORN’s arguments).

As with some other left-wing groups, ACORN also has a history of union-busting (with regard to its own employees, mind you; they are very pro-union for everyone else). Whatever one’s politics, it’s not the sort of organization I would recommend going to bat for.

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  • Let’s not follow the Fox News lead an pile on ACORN here, which is most certainly not leading to widespread voter fraud. See here for a start: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2008/10/voter-fraud-fra.html.

    Of course, I can talk about how a group of white-wing white voters are up in arms over the attempts to register minority voters, calling out all kinds irregularities and fraud— hmmm, where did I hear that before?

  • G Alkon

    And these white-wing voters attacking ACORN for impossible voter fraud are doing this for one reason — to suppress the minority vote.
    And they will surely, like many commenters here, insist that they are not racist — just playing hardball politics.
    Let’s be clear: one does not need to know one is a racist to be a racist.
    I hope and pray that I am not a racist.

  • G Alkon

    BA — you’re right that ACORN’s employment practices are not defensible.
    That says nothing about the absurd — and racist — accusations being made against them of practicing “the greatest voter fraud in the history of the nation” (as McCain says). False voter registration fits with what you’ve pointed to above: poorly paid employees, under pressure to make quotas, faking the forms.
    That is reprehensible.
    But it leads to approximately 0 fraudulent votes.
    And yet the Bush DOJ has spent years now prosecuting “fraud” cases — cases which multiple Republican states AG have called preposterous. And at least one Republican state AG, David Iglesias, was fired for resisting the ridiculous and illegal prosecutions of the Bush DOJ. Iglesias says he is now shocked by the DOJ involvement in further investigations.
    The purpose of these investigations is racist. It is to suppress minority voting by invalidating new registrations. It is intrinsically evil, for what that’s worth (not much, because, as I’ve said before, many non-intrinsic evils are far more grave than intrinsic evils (like shoplifting, for example)).
    Why do you remain agnostic about the larger crime here, the false allegations against ACORN, and choose instead to pile on ACORN?
    Fine — ACORN is a poorly run org.
    But the bigger crime is the racist vote suppression — and that is inseparable from the fradulent attacks on ACORN re: vote fraud.

  • BA explains why ACORN is in the news these days (not saying if it’s right or wrong), but then focuses his post on their view of the minimum wage. Yet the main point of his post is essentially ignored in favor of his intro.

    If a conservative organization had been the topic, would the treatment be the same?

  • If everyone is going to comment about their own pet hobbyhorses rather than the topic of the post: One of my objections to the ethic of voting which ACORN’s pay-per-registration business model exemplifies is that it turns votes into a commodity rather than an action of active and thinking citizens.

    When elections are reduced to contests to see who can bus the most bodies to polling places, we lose any real sense of “government by the people” and instead turns it into an exercise in paid voter herding.

    It seems to me that becoming a voter should require at least as much work as becoming a licensed driver, and that roughly the same safeguards should be taken on checking voter ID as checking to make sure that drivers have licenses.

    And before anyone suggests that is racist — let me point out how racist it is to claim that minorities are not capable of being just as educated and responsible voters as anyone else.

  • G Alkon

    DC —

    Have you heard of a campaign?

    Of get out the vote efforts?

    Note — do the Democrats spend time and effort, and abuse the power of the DOJ, to un-enroll registered Republican voters (no matter how they were registered)?

    Are you saying that it doesn’t matter that the Republicans are trying to destroy legal voter-registrations efforts? Why not?

  • G Alkon


    the idea that I am talking about my “pet issue” is flat bulls–t.

    the _only_ reason BA has even heard of ACORN is because of the immense, fraudulent, racist campaign against ACORN — alleging preposterously that false registration = fraud.

    A racist, objectively evil campaign, against which it would behoove Catholics to take a stand.

  • G Alkon

    emend: the only reason BA is even talking about ACORN is its place in the news today, due to the racist evil attempt to discredit the many newly registered voters that have been gathered by the Obama campaign

  • “the only reason BA is even talking about ACORN is its place in the news today,”

    Even if that’s true, so what? His point is still being essentially ignored, as would probably not be the case if it was a conservative organization.

  • S.B.

    Alkon — why don’t you just submit a post in which you copy the word “racist” a thousand times. That still won’t make it wrong for people to think it’s a bit dubious for a left-wing group to be submitting fraudulent registrations (as they have done by the thousands). Opposing fraudulent registrations doesn’t equate to opposing minorities, and to suggest as much doesn’t even make sense.

  • G Alkon,

    Outside of the world that exists in your head, it’s pretty clearly documented that ACORN has been responsible (whether though its fault or not) for turning in a number of fraudulent voter registrations. It’s not exactly surprising this would happen: they pay people wages based on how many registrations they collect, so those people are heavily incented to register people multiple times, falsify registrations, etc.

    Historically, it’s also a matter of fact that the Democratic party (because it relied heavily on big city political machines) was much more involved in voter fraud than the Republican one. There’s nothing racist about it — this goes back to when it was Irish and Italian immigrants who were the fodder for political machines and voter fraud.

    But if Democrats want to propose legislation that seeks to require proper identification for all voters — I’ll certainly support it. It’s not that I have an interest in seeing voters removed from rolls, but rather than I have an interest in voting being clean.

    As for your accusation that BA would not have heard about ACORN had it not been for the accusations against them which you claim are racist — BA is a lawyer and I seem to recall he deals with election litigation among other things, so when he says that he heard about them because they lost a case over wanting to pay their workers below minimum wage, I don’t see why anyone should disbelieve him.

    So on the low wage and union busting — is the position you and MM are taking the good old “He may be an SOB, but at least he’s out SOB?” Does anything besides winning matter, or are we in all partisan cheerleading all the time mode through November?

  • G Alkon

    look up republican former new mexico AG online.

    look up the recent goddamned AG firing scandal, which forced Gonzales to resign.

    the issue — the big issue — is the constant accusations of voter fraud leveled by republicans, which led in 2006 to the criminal abuse of the DOJ and probably wrongful prosecutions.

    i said from the outset that ACORN is at fault.

    that doesn’t change the larger dynamic — of stirring up _groundless_ fears of voter fraud (not registration fraud) — fears that are race-based; and a systematic attempt by the republicans to suppress minority turnout — which, by the way, they have done in 2004 and 2000, as i’m sure you know, at some “level” of your mind/body/bowels.

    the point then is where the real crime is. ACORN’s errors are being used by…


    and racism, as i said above, is not saying “i hate black people.”

    it’s more complex, pernicious, and harder to isolate.

    but it’s everywhere in this campaign.

  • G Alkon

    Oh yes, I forgot to add, in case you were wondering:

    Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Armstrong Williams, Condoleezza Rice, and even Colin Powell are, yes, racists.

  • RR

    BA’s point should be ignored because it is critical of ACORN. Don’t we all support Obama? Ignore BA’s point!

  • blackadderiv

    As I said in my post, I first became aware of ACORN due to their minimum wage challenge, not their election related activities. I can even point you to the exact place where I first heard about them, which coincidentally enough was this blog post by S.B. Note that the date on this posting is prior to Barack Obama’s becoming a U.S. Senator (I don’t say it was before he started running for President), and long before ACORN started its current funding drive.

    In fact, a draft version of this post has been sitting on my computer since I wrote a few posts on the minimum wage back in at the end of July. I was planning on posting it whenever I got around to taking up the minimum wage issue again, as an example of how even left-wing groups will concede the legitimacy of the economic argument against the minimum wage in their own case. But since ACORN has been so much in the news of late, and since many on the left seemed to be building towards an impassioned defense of the organization, I thought I would give them fair warning of exactly what sort of group they’d be defending.

  • Doesn’t matter, BA… as DC noted, ACORN is “our” SOB, so any position which doesn’t jive with “ours” will be essentially ignored.

  • blackadderiv

    Oh yes, I forgot to add, in case you were wondering:

    Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Armstrong Williams, Condoleezza Rice, and even Colin Powell are, yes, racists.

    To quote one of my favorite films: you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • G Alkon

    I Be Clear 4 you;

    not defending ACORN;

    saying there is bigger problem;

    read about attorney firing scandal.

  • Conservatives have also been recently blaming ACORN for the economoc collapse.

    If I recall correctly, one of the VN resident ‘conservatives’ was the perpetrator here of such blame.

    Where have you gone Rene Girard…our republic turns its lonely eyes to you…?

  • S.B.

    Alkon is more dimwitted than I would have thought humanly possible, if he is smearing Rice and Thomas as “racist.”

  • G Alkon

    thanks, pal!

  • G Alkon

    I suppose Charles Murray is also not racist?

  • S.B.

    Non sequitur. Charles Murray /= Clarence Thomas.

  • Does one dare ask G Alkon why he thinks Clarence Thomas and Condeleezza Rice are racists, or would reading his explanation of this be to knowledge that anti-matter is to matter?

  • If ACORN’s focus was not race-based registrations, then opposition to them would not be racist, would it? Getting more people to vote is admirable. I agree with Darwin that bussing mass quantities of newly registered, uninformed voters to the polls to vote for your guy, many times with financial incentives (no matter how small they might be) doesn’t do the election process in this country any good.

    And if that makes me “racist” in your eyes, so be it.