Justice at Work: Minimum Wage Laws and Social Equality

Brishen Rogers

Temple University, James E. Beasley School of Law

March 17, 2014

Texas Law Review, Forthcoming
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-08

This article develops a new normative defense of minimum wage laws. Existing legal academic debate on such laws revolves around how well they deliver resources to the working poor compared to transfer programs such as wage subsidies, negative income taxes, and unconditional basic income programs. Transfers have advantages as mechanisms of redistribution: they target the working poor rather than all workers, and they do not increase involuntary unemployment. Because of such advantages, legal scholars have criticized minimum wage laws both on utilitarian grounds of welfare maximization and on egalitarian liberal grounds of fairness toward society’s worst-off.

Accepting for the sake of argument that minimum wage laws tend to increase unemployment, this article nevertheless defends them on grounds of justice. It argues that a just state will not simply redistribute resources, but will also enable citizens to relate to one another as equals. Minimum wage laws advance this ideal of “social equality” in several ways: they increase the proportion of resources captured by low-wage workers as a group; they incentivize higher value-added production strategies by discouraging the use of extremely low-wage labor; and they alter power relationships between employees and employers. Transfers are generally less effective on each front. Transfers and minimum wages are therefore complementary means of ensuring justice for low-wage workers.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: Minimum wage, employment law, social justice, social equality

Accepted Paper Series

Download This Paper

Date posted: September 1, 2013 ; Last revised: March 20, 2014

Suggested Citation

Rogers, Brishen, Justice at Work: Minimum Wage Laws and Social Equality (March 17, 2014). Texas Law Review, Forthcoming; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-08. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2318559 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2318559

Contact Information

Brishen Rogers (Contact Author)
Temple University, James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )
1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 731
Downloads: 41

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo8 in 0.704 seconds