WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Al Sharpton said that the last time African-Americans were fully employed was during slavery.
Sharpton made the comment following a 90-minute meeting civil rights leaders had with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday. The meeting came after a Congressional Budget Office report detailed that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could cost 500,000 jobs.
“What must be weighed in any analysis, CBO and others, is that blacks suffer disproportionately from having to do work and not get the kind of wages that we need,” Sharpton said, according to a White House pool report. “This is a central concern in our community. It’s not just having a job, but having wages that are guaranteed to provide for our families.”
Sharpton continued: “We had full employment in the black community during slavery. We just didn’t have wages. So we don’t want just a job, we want a job that pays, and pays so that we can take care of our families.”
The unemployment rate among blacks rose 12.1 percent last month. The national unemployment rate is 6.6 percent.
Obama and Democrats want Congress to raise the minimum wage. Republicans strongly oppose, saying jobs will be lost as a result.
National Urban League President Marc Morial told reporters afterward that his organization’s research shows that a higher minimum wage won’t cost jobs.
Obama recently signed an executive order raising the hourly minimum to $10.10 for federal contractors.
Sharpton said the meeting also covered voting and civil rights, including “stand your ground” laws.
“We are firmly convinced the President will fight for jobs, training, minimum wage and voting rights as well as explore the other areas of concern that we raised,” Sharpton said in a statement. “We are determined to build this country and make it work for everyone equally and fairly.”
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