Man Without Qualities

Monday, April 22, 2002

Update: Resplendent in their new rights ...

The California court that has reportedly ruled that undocumented workers may sue and collect for back pay based on the difference between minimum and actual wages has overlooked something: many undocumented workers receive much more than minimum wage. They will therefore not be immediately affected by the court's ruling.

Even undocumented workers who receive more than the minimum wage still probably receive less than the market rate wage they would have received if the workers were American citizens or legal aliens. The court will perhaps wish to complete and generalize it's holding and also hold that an undocumented worker receiving more than minimum wage may sue and collect for back pay based on the difference between prevailing market wage rates and actual wages paid.

That way, the court will ensure that the disincentive it is creating for employers not to hire undocumented workers will extend beyond minimum wage earners. As things stand under the current holding, the court's decision hurts only the prospects of minimum wage earners to find the work they so desperately want. Surely the court doesn't want to hurt just the most desperate workers. By generalizing its holding, the court will ensure that ALL undocumented workers are hit hard.

Gee, with friends like this California court, who knows where this will lead? Perhaps the same Princeton economists who justified the last increase in the federal minimum wage law will explain that forcing employers to pay more than $6.00 per hour will cause even more undocumented workers to be employed than if employers could get away with paying the $2.17 hourly rate that was at issue in the California case. And so on with market wages.

I can hardly wait!

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