Remarks at a White House Meeting on Proposed Youth Employment Opportunity Wage Legislation

March 25, 1985

The President. [Inaudible] -- try and get around the table, but I extend a warm welcome to all of you for being here. And I'm pleased to see so many of the various groups that are represented here today. I know that Mayor Barry is due here in a few minutes. I guess we'll proceed and let him present an excuse when he comes in. [Laughter]

We've made real progress in bringing down unemployment -- creating over 7 million new jobs in the last 3 years, and over 300,000 of those in the last month alone. But we can't rest until everyone who wants a job can find one.

And today I'm resubmitting legislation to establish a summer youth employment opportunity wage. And I want to thank Orrin Hatch, Trent Lott, Jerry Denton, Charlie Stenholm, who couldn't be here today, in advance for their work and leadership on this.

A minimum wage differential would allow business to create an additional 400,000 jobs, we believe, for our young people and would have plenty of protection in there. But it wouldn't -- no one could substitute, really, youth at the lower wage for legitimate wage earners.

Under the current Federal minimum wage, many inexperienced and disadvantaged young people are priced out of the labor market. There are jobs that, if you make them too expensive, there will be people who just figure they don't need to do those particular jobs.

This legislation will help provide the first job, with real work experience, for many of these young people. And it's experience that might never occur. I remember my first job. Do you remember yours?

And, you know, with all the best of intentions, today I look back and realize that we have passed various social reforms that would make it impossible for anyone to do this. I was 14 years old, found myself on a job where I was laying hardwood floor. Before the summer was over, I had shingled roof; I even painted. And so many of these things that just wouldn't be allowed today.

And, of course, I've often said that one of my better jobs, when I then got back to school and was continuing to work my way through school, is one of the better jobs I've ever had -- I was washing dishes in the girls dormitory. [Laughter]

Summer is quickly approaching, and we can't afford to waste another opportunity to provide work and that work experience for so many of America's young people.

So, I think if we all work together, we can get this past Congress. And we know where the greatest numbers contributing to the unemployment figures are today, and they're among our young people, and particularly those who we want to help the most -- those in our minority communities. And it's been too long coming -- them shut out, in effect, of the summer job market. So, let's all go after it!

Note: The President spoke at 1:43 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Mayor Marion Barry of the District of Columbia.