You know, I thought the youth minimum wage might be the harder of the two referendum petition drives that we are starting today. But at least two city commissions think that setting the minimum wage a buck lower for youngsters than for adults is a bad idea.
The Aberdeen City Council had before it last night a resolution from Mayor Mike Levsen establishing a uniform minimum wage for all city employees. Mayor Levsen makes my petition-circulating easier with this argument:
Levsen says people in Aberdeen have asked him if the city will pay teenagers the new youth minimum wage.
“My response was as mayor I wouldn’t want to see that because I thought the voters were very clear that they wanted everybody to get $8.50,” Levsen said.
…Levsen calls the resolution a matter of principle. He also wants it to drive policy as the minimum wage increases along with inflation.
“This wouldn’t have any affect now because I think everyone’s making $8.50 or more now,” Levsen said. “But I think it’s important to establish the concept that as a city government and as a significant employer of people under 18, we are not going to discount the salaries of those people just because they’re younger than 18″ [Erich Schaffhauser, “City of Aberdeen Discussing Youth Minimum Wage,” KELOLand.com, 2015.03.30].
The Aberdeen City Council postponed action on the resolution until next week, so that (1) a couple absent councillors and join the discussion, (2) the city can check whether they even need a resolution to set a minimum wage, and (3) legislators can weigh in to explain the rationale for the youth minimum wage.
The same discussion was taking place down the road in Huron, where their city commission took up HR coordinator Pat Schmidt’s recommended wage ranges for Huron’s summer part-time positions. Concessionnaires, street crew, sports and arts and crafts assistants, lifeguards—Schmidt says they all should get $8.50 minimum. Nowhere does the summer wage proposal advocate taking advantage of the youth minimum wage. A friend in Huron tells me the commission approved these wage ranges, because Huron knows a thing or two about being fair.
How any town in South Dakota, where unemployment is a meager 3.4%, attracts young workers by paying them less escapes me. The City of Sioux Falls already has to pay more than minimum to attract young workers:
“Really, we haven’t looked into it at all. Here at Parks and Recreation, our wages are higher than the minimum wage, and the youth minimum wage doesn’t really impact us much,” Kelby Mieras with the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department said.
Many of the over 400 jobs for the Parks and Recreation Department have wages starting around $9.50 on up, trying to keep up with a city that requires a competitive wage.
“We’re in a competitive job market and we’re all looking for good, qualified employees to represent our organization as well. Wage does play a part in that,” Mieras said.
…Sioux Falls City Council member Michelle Erpenbach… says that even though there is a new law on the books, she hopes that the City doesn’t look at this as a reason to discuss new wages.
“I hope that we don’t have that conversation because I think that Sioux Falls is better than that. I think that Sioux Falls is at a point in our development where we understand that individual power, that individual value of each of those people that’s working for minimum wage regardless of their age,” Erpenbach said [Jared Ransom, “No Major Impact to Many SF City Jobs by Youth Minimum Wage,” KELOLand.com, 2015.03.30].
Yes, Sioux Falls, you are better than that. So are you, Huron and Aberdeen. Keep an eye out for our referendum petitions so you can ensure that all of South Dakota is better than that.