The Aberdeen American News places some lazy journalism on its front page, discussing the discriminatory youth minimum wage as if it were a done deal and ignoring the fact that thousands of South Dakotans have signed a petition to suspend that pay cut and put it on the November 2016 ballot.
But come July 1, some young workers won’t be making the $8.50 minimum wage South Dakota voters approved in November.
During this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers altered the minimum wage law for workers younger than 18. The change sets the minimum wage at $7.50 for workers younger than 18 [Kaylyn Deiter, “Aberdeen-Area Teens Speak up on Lower Minimum Wage,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.06.15].
Technically, Deiter’s statement is true, but it’s like telling people the golf tournament starts at noon but failing to tell them that there’s a 95% chance of thunderstorms raining us out. We will submit our petition against the youth minimum wage on June 29. It may take Secretary of State Shantel Krebs a week or so to count and verify signatures—and she’ll have one, maybe two other petitions to review at the same time!—so the youth minimum wage will likely take effect as scheduled on July 1. Employers may get to short their young workers a buck an hour for the July 4 weekend (yay, freedom!). However, once Secretary Krebs certifies that we have more than the 13,871 signatures required, the youth minimum wage will be suspended, and young people will again have that equal labor protection until at least November 8, 2016.
Deiter finds three kids who oppose the minimum wage reduction and two who say pushing kids around is o.k.:
But the teenager who works in the pro shop at Moccasin Creek Country Club added he doesn’t necessarily think the youth minimum wage needs to be boosted, either. Instead, Dohrer viewed the wage difference as an incentive, a badge of seniority to be earned as he gets older.
“Yeah, we might get pushed around a little because we’re younger, but it’s just one of those things you need to work up to,” he said.
…Max & Erma’s hostess Abby Brennan, 15, receives tips in addition to her hourly pay. She said she understands why many people her age who don’t get tips would favor the higher minimum wage.
“I understand where a lot of people are coming from,” she said. “But for us, since we’re still younger, it’s probably OK” [Deiter, 2015.06.15].
The young apologists for the youth minimum wage sound like the freshmen I encounter who think getting hazed by the seniors during homecoming is a badge of honor. Kids, don’t be fooled by the older people who want to take advantage of you. No human being has to “work up to” or “earn” basic dignity in the workplace. It’s not o.k. to cheat a worker out of basic workplace protections—minimum wage, overtime, safety regulations—just because of the worker’s age. If we allow young people into the workplace, we must give the same labor protections that we give every other worker.
We have that equality now, thanks to the will of the voters who last year set the minimum wage at $8.50 for every worker. After a brief bureaucratic hiatus at the beginning of July, we will have that equality again.