Sunday, February 17, 2013

History of Labor Laws: The Chinese Connection

Proponents of minimum wage, Labor laws, and the like argue that these types of laws protect the downtrodden, poor, minorities and immigrants. However, history does not support this claim. In fact, it proves the opposite. For example, let's take the laborers from the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1800s. The vast majority of these laborers were from China, as these industrious laborers were escaping the intense squalor, poverty and the harsh conditions of China. Many firms related to the railroad hired these laborers because they could accept lower than market wages, work longer hours, and they were very diligent in their work.  They provided an excellent service, and both parties benefited: Labor and Management.

From an economic standpoint, this seemed to be a good thing, but something happened. People were uncomfortable with these immigrants. Typically, the immigrants lived in communities that comprised other Chinese. Many other laborers and citizens did not understand the Chinese culture or the way of life, and began to become uncomfortable with the.increased influx of Chinese labor into the United States. Subsequently, White Labor unions began to organize against this trend. They lobbied to push for anti-immigration legislation to stop the influx of Chinese Labor. A successful campaign was done, and it manifested its self in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Subsequent acts were passed in 1892, 1902 and 1904 to restrict the in flux of other immigrant groups. The act was eventually reversed in the 1943.

In short, the white labor organized against the Chinese to use the power of the Federal Government to legally push out Chinese Labor. The Chinese did not benefit from this legislation. Understand: They were leaving the harsh conditions of China to come to the United States to earn lower wages--lower wages that were below the market in the US, but much better than in China. They were seeking to improve their lives, not worsen their lives. Passing these laws, to wit, discriminated against the Chinese labor in favor of the White Labor.  This is an example of how Government can be used to hurt the poor and downtrodden.

Here is a video providing a brief summary of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

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