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Nebraska Rejects Lower Youth Minimum Wage; So Should South Dakota!

Maybe we South Dakotans need to look to the Nebraska Legislature for examples of good sense. Not only did Nebraska repeal its death penalty, but its legislators also rejected a youth minimum wage that would have flown in the face of a popular ballot initiative:

State lawmakers Friday [May 15] rejected a bill (LB599) that would have kept the minimum wage at $8 an hour for most student workers age 18 and under once the state’s overall minimum wage increases to $9 an hour in 2016.

The measure needed support from 33 senators to pass on the final round of debate. It got 29.

Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, who sponsored the petition to raise Nebraska’s overall minimum wage last year, called Friday’s vote “a win for democracy.”

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, who sponsored this year’s youth minimum wage bill, said it remains to be seen if rural grocery stores and other small businesses will suffer as a result [Zach Pluhacek, “Nebraska Lawmakers Reject Lower Minimum Wage for Young Workers,” Lincoln Journal-Star, 2015.05.15].

It would be highly instructive to compare the economic impacts on small rural businesses of a unified minimum wage in Nebraska versus the discriminatory youth minimum wage passed by this year’s South Dakota Legislature… if that costly and unnecessary South Dakota youth minimum wage were allowed to take effect July 1. But we won’t get that research opportunity, since four weeks from now, my friends and I will submit well over 13,871 signatures to suspend that youth minimum wage and put it to a vote. (Circulators! Keep working! We have until June 29!)


  1. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-01 13:12

    What is going on with the usually conservative state of Nebraska?

    Last week as we know the legislature voted to override the governor on the death panel and were successful.

    This week we see them supporting a normally Democratic issue of equal youth minimum wage.

    Something unusual is happening to that border state and I’m curious what it is.

  2. Barbara 2015-06-01 14:01

    And this: “The Nebraska legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday to pass a bill ending the state’s ban on licenses for DREAMers. Nebraska is the last state in the country to allow them to receive driver’s licenses.”

    The Supreme Court forced Arizona to permit this so Nebraska could probably see the writing on the wall. Outlawing the death penalty seemed to be successful because of the combination of cost-savings and pro-life policy that even conservatives (other than the governor) could support. But maybe something is happening. One can hope so.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-01 19:09

    “these kids just ain’t worth it”.

    Sounds like Blue Ribbon Task Force bumper sticker or a SDGOP 2016 campaign slogan.

  4. Lynn 2015-06-01 19:20

    Roger good one! lol :)

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-01 23:32

    That is pretty funny Roger. I like it.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-02 07:57

    Hap, if the kids ain’t worth it, they shouldn’t be hired in the first place, just like anyone else. The solution is not to set a lower minimum wage for an entire age class… or would you like to make a similar blanket statement about workers over 65: they’re slower and weaker and can’t do as much work as young people, so their minimum should be a buck or two lower, too?

    Roger, get ready to run that bumper sticker.

  7. happy camper 2015-06-02 16:53

    Older people are reliable and have an adult brain. You’re practically a kid until age 25, but especially those under 18 are bouncing off the walls. They’re higher risk, possibly no work experience. And kids vary in maturity. A 16 year old can be more like age 14 or age 18, so pay them according to their worth. I loved my second job when I was 15. We weren’t paid minimum wage and we weren’t worth it either. But the experience was fantastic for all of us. One of those kids is now the top salesman in the world (yes the world) for Xerox her brother recently told me. And I remember her telling me (she was senior) it’s about the customer, not us. A lot of those kids went on to success you don’t see elsewhere. You might inadvertently take away work experience for young people by pushing them out of the market I fear.

    Did you ever think a woman would be in charge of John Deere in Madison, SD? Make note of the progress!

  8. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 17:12

    South Dakota’s minimum wage is an insult to anyone who works at any wage regardless and irrespective of a worker’s age.

    You poor bastards.

  9. happy camper 2015-06-02 17:50

    How about The Land of Enchantment? Last paragraph has special importance.

    New Mexico’s minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. This is greater than the Federal Minimum Wage. You are entitled to be paid the higher wage.

    The minimum wage is $7.50 per hour for most employees in New Mexico, with exceptions for tipped employees, some student workers, and other exempt occupations.[1]

    Two cities in New Mexico have special minimum wage rates. The Santa Fe Minimum Wage is $9.92 per hour for all employees. The Albuquerque Minimum Wage is $8.60 per hour, as of January 2014. Bernalillo County also has a separate minimum wage of $8.50 per hour.

    Minors under 18, students working after school hours, domestic workers, government employees, farm workers, and certain seasonal employees are all exempt from the New Mexico minimum wage.

  10. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 17:54

    What’s your point? New Mexico is embarrassed with its GOP governor, too and the state’s economy is suffering because of it.

  11. happy camper 2015-06-02 18:01

    You’re a bastard too, it seems.

  12. grudznick 2015-06-02 18:03

    New Mexico seems like a swell place to me. A lot more people should move there.

  13. mike from iowa 2015-06-02 18:12

    What the hell do kids want from us? We forced therm to be born,but nooooooo that wasn’t good enough-the ungrateful little whelps. Next thing you know they will be wanting food and education and healthcare at the expense of the poor koch bros.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-02 18:30

    There is an element of this discussion that is always avoided.
    I’ve encountered many business owners and managers that don’t have a clue how to train employee, young, old, and everything in between.
    If you don’t train workers to the job you want them to do, who’s fault is it?
    A couple of months ago I had a conversation with a farmer down on the Pine Reservation, he complained that inspite of the fact that he paid his help $15 an hour he couldn’t them and claimed they were all drug users. The guy never has anything positive to say about Oglala Sioux Tribal members.
    When I asked him to examine what he maybe don’t wrong to cause the high turnover he got really pissed off.
    Now, if he was training and treating his employees well, I expect his retention rate would be lower.
    If he is talking politics or other hate speech, I wouldn’t expect them or anyone else to work for him.
    If an employer can’t teach a teenager to do a grunt job in a couple of weeks, he is the problem.

  15. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 19:28

    A thousand years ago the People followed the herds from the Pecos to the Yellowstone, talk to Wakan Tanka every day and Mato Paha was the heart of all there was.

    Now, there is only Death.

  16. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 19:48

    If Sioux Falls was serious about being a decent place to live and work she would adopt Santa Fe’s wage strategy except that workers in New Mexico can get their medical insurance at no charge because our GOP governor signed up for ObamaCare and Denny Daugaard is wedded to moral hazard.

  17. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 19:51

    If Mike Huether or Sam Kooiker were leaders like Javier Gonzales is they would make Sioux Falls and Rapid City worth living in.

  18. Lynn 2015-06-02 19:52

    Grudz have you been to New Mexico?

  19. grudznick 2015-06-02 20:37

    Who do you think painted the desert there, Ms. Lynn?

  20. Douglas Wiken 2015-06-02 21:11

    That desert has been vandalized with graffiti?

  21. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 22:21

    Wiken caps it: take the pot, Doug.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-03 06:43

    Interesting point about training, Roger! How many employers who want to take advantage of the youth minimum wage (or of the federal training wage, which makes South Dakota’s youth minimum wage redundant) are willing and able to teach new workers well, and how many just assume that every worker will just watch and learn?

    Our discussion of the minimum wage this year makes me wonder why we allow any exemptions to the minimum wage for any group of workers or employers. Work is work. No matter how juvenile or doddering you are, showing up for work requires a certain sacrifice of sweat and liberty. That basic sacrifice, the same for everyone, deserves the same minimum compensation. We can sort out skill levels and productivity with pay scales above that minimum. Individual employers and the market should determine those differing above-minimum pay scales on a worker-by-worker basis, rather than imposing pay discrimination based on class through laws that don’t recognize the fact that the 17-year-old go-getter can tote more bales than the 35-year-old goldbricker.

  23. happy camper 2015-06-03 08:43

    Cory’s last comment would make sense if SD’s minimum rate was low enough to hire kids, but it’s $8.50 compared to MN at $8.00, NY at $8,75, and CA at $9.00. Obviously those states have a much higher cost of living. These bottom-end jobs hold a different purpose than creating a middle class lifestyle. Maybe we’ll find out what voters think upon reflection but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go your way. If the wage is too high the kid jobs will just end up being automated and/or done away with anyway. As a former kid I can tell you I wasn’t worth $8.50 an hour. And these kids today …….. :)

  24. larry kurtz 2015-06-03 08:53

    Just put migrant kids in the dairies, the CAFOs and packing plants then after they expire compost their remains to grow the wheat to make bread for the next wave.

    South Dakota: Land of Infinite Vindictiveness.

  25. happy camper 2015-06-03 09:32

    We really should go back to piecemeal and pay these kids for every completed burger, taco. Or milked cow what have you.

  26. Lynn 2015-06-03 09:41


    There are plenty of kids out there that are hungry enough for a job and work just as hard or harder than many adults and should be compensated. As Roger Cornelius stated above sometimes it comes down to the manager or supervisor in stating clearly what the expectations and job duties are and creating a good work environment.

    Think about supervisors we may of had when we were younger that what could of been a miserable job and turned it into a fun environment where lifelong friendships and loyalty were developed and all of us took pride in what we accomplished and productivity was high.

    An approach of Mentoring would go along way rather than just treating them as cheap labor.

  27. Lynn 2015-06-03 10:02


    “We really should go back to piecemeal and pay these kids for every completed burger, taco. Or milked cow what have you.”

    Many kids I worked with just finishing their season participating in sports and would turn a scenario similar to what you stated into a competitive game and to make work fun without succumbing to the negatives of monotony and and with their endurance would most likely out produce the older adults some of which may have developed injuries over the years. Then what? Lay off the adults? Pay these kids more and pay the adults less?

  28. larry kurtz 2015-06-03 10:36

    You make a good point, Lynn. What prevents big white boss men like Steve Allender, et al. from just hiring people who aren’t protected by wage laws?

    “South Dakota law does not cover age discrimination, but this is prohibited under federal law.”

  29. mike from iowa 2015-06-03 10:46

    Once a rule or regulation gets passed,someone starts looking for ways around said law or regulation. It never ends.

  30. Lynn 2015-06-03 11:12

    Larry and MFI,

    These kids could and will probably be exploited with the two tiered wage system and it could not only negatively affect the kids but adults also that could be jettisoned for cheaper labor. South Dakota is a right to work state. If you have been around a manufacturing environment depending on what they produce there is a good chance you will see adults with work related injuries.

    I’ve known people who assembled smaller items such as transistors that had scars on their arms from carpel tunnel surgeries and worked in pain. Sometimes with a change in healthier work practices, physical therapy and surgery it helped and sometimes it didn’t. These particular production workers desperately needed these jobs, gave 110%, highly productive with excellent quality. Will these work related injured and loyal employees be jettisoned for younger uninjured and cheaper labor with no protection?

  31. mike from iowa 2015-06-03 11:27

    Lynn-wingnuts repealed ergonomics protections for workers back in 2002 as a favor to the koch bros. That was when wingnuts controlled all branches of gubmint.

  32. happy camper 2015-06-03 12:11

    In theory that’s a good point Lynn and the word jettison is a very fun word, but in practice an employer looking for any amount of stability is not going to terminate older, reliable employees. They’re just too hard to find, and it’s worth noting based on a review of the jobs in Madison those at the bottom paying $8.50 are Barista, car wash attendant, cashier, and cook. From there production jobs start at $10 to $12, and a bit higher even. Most don’t show the salary amount, but in a small town the head of Electric Utility with a range of $64,000 – $80,000 sounds pretty darn good. The market really needs to take care of itself and appears to be in Madison, probably with a boost from a couple new employers. I believe previously some employers have been kept out of Madison (or not financially encouraged to come as they all expect now) so that “free market” was not operating. When I graduated from high school Morrell meat packing was union with very high wages. The union busted themselves by artificially demanding too much.

    They say almost 18% of employees were expected to get an increase by this law. Sounds unbelievably high, but still there is no future in a minimum wage job.

    “SDBPI concluded that roughly one out of six (17.3%) employed South Dakotans would see wage increases, the majority of whom have completed high school or college.” That doesn’t sound believable. Are there really that many crappy jobs in South Dakota?,_Initiated_Measure_18_%282014%29

  33. mike from iowa 2015-06-03 12:30

    I beg to differ,HC. If older workers are nearing retirement/pension age they get shuffled out the door pretty pronto and are replaced with workers who can work many years before they need to be replaced for the same reasons.

    As far as unions are concerned,you need to check with pols in Wisconsin and Minnesota to find what businesses really think of unions. Minn wingnuts and Wisconsin businesses begged Walker in Wisc. not to shut down the unions because businesses now have the added expense of training workers and getting them up to speed. Wisconsin business leaders and unions had a workable,mutually beneficial relationship until Walker pissed it away for the koch bros.

    Minnesota gains by attracting trained workers who won’t vote for wingnuts. Keep on cutting your own throat.

  34. Lynn 2015-06-03 12:39


    “but in practice an employer looking for any amount of stability is not going to terminate older, reliable employees”

    Growing up in two family businesses and with management experience elsewhere one would think that also but Happy I can tell you unfortunately it does happen in South Dakota. I know of one manufacturer in South Dakota with it’s HQ located out of state and is publicly traded that has a well earned reputation of cycling thru employees about every 5 years. Those employees worked their way up in wage scale, salaried and some up into supervisory positions and then let go. No reasons given with our right to work laws. Long term demand for the product they produced was high and these employees had the reputation for going the extra mile. No work performance issues were cited prior to termination in fact it was the opposite.

    Immediately after these employees were jettisoned which due to the circumstances this word seems appropriate a large fresh group of employees were hired many of them were immigrants at their starting wage.

    Again one would think this makes no sense given the job market and a company gaining a reputation of not having long term security in a smaller job market but they feel they can get away with it and they evidently have.

  35. happy camper 2015-06-03 13:03

    With further digging those earlier numbers weren’t right. About 4.5% of South Dakotans were earning minimum wage before the new law. Another site said 6,000 were at minimum and another 6,000 under, so we’re talking about low numbers (higher than other states probably). Not that they aren’t important, but there can be legitimate reasons for having those jobs. I’m not against unions, but the balance of power has shifted from their mighty days, and don’t kid yourself that unions like everything (soccer even!) get corrupted. If MN has worked to establish good relations, then it’s likely a cultural difference between our states and one more reason to explain why people don’t stay. Lynn has made the best argument yet for conformity in minimum wage rates although this Forbes article is worth considering. He’s saying when it comes down to it only a very few families are affected by minimum wage:

  36. Lynn 2015-06-03 13:42


    Going a little off topic with what you mentioned about unions.

    “I’m not against unions, but the balance of power has shifted from their mighty days, and don’t kid yourself that unions like everything (soccer even!) get corrupted.”

    Personally I’d like to see more unions now today given how much power corporations have today as being ruled “citizens” and how they are basically writing the laws all in the name of short term profit at the expense of good paying living wage domestic jobs, workplace safety, protections, long term investment and the environment to list a few.

    The main issue I have with some unions is the abuse and corruption that can occur within as you mentioned. Union membership have a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY in how they represent themselves, service their membership, self police, how they work collectively with employers and how they can sell themselves thru real positive action outside to the public.

    I’ve known of instances within the airline industry over in Minnesota where union abuse was rampant, there was corruption, union leadership was more concerned about protecting their own profitable set up and not looking beyond to the big picture. Meanwhile incompetent toxic employees were protected and never reprimanded nor terminated. Good employees who were union members still believed in the mission of the union but recognized how entrenched the corruption was. That union chapter was busted in Minnesota with an airline merger. Many good employees that were union members lost their jobs. That example was a clear example of not how to run a Union and they paid the price.

  37. larry kurtz 2015-06-03 13:52

    “They treat us like dogs.”

    Stunted by entrenchment from South Dakota’s congressional delegation and leadership voids in the Daugaard administration some Black Hills businesses could find themselves short-handed during the upcoming potentially record-breaking tourist season.

    In 2012 a Custer State Park resort was fined for abusing workers under the H-2B program.

    Because of GOP foot-dragging and because businesses are unable to hire effective local workers volunteer spring breakers from Minnesota have been cleaning parts of Custer State Park.

  38. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-03 18:26

    HC said, “Obviously those states have a much higher cost of living.”

    That’s only true in housing. Everything else in MN is no more, and often less than SD. I think even Daugard has given up that line. We get many times more help than SD offers and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, MN’s economic recovery is far ahead of SD and one of the leaders in this nation.

  39. happy camper 2015-06-03 18:50

    I’m pretty much convinced most of our problems come from corruption rather than policy differences. It will never be perfect, but it’s just everywhere in addition to politics and government: police departments, unions, “non-profits”, churches. Move that bar just a bit higher and many human sufferings would be eliminated. You can’t even trust the Red Cross anymore:

  40. Lynn 2015-06-03 19:07


    If you go to a small town within easy commuting distance from the Twin Cities you can find nice homes that offer more bang for the buck than many cities and towns here in South Dakota and the property taxes are significantly lower. New Ulm MN, similar in size to Mitchell SD and home to “Herman the German” a similar house is at least $20,000 less than what you would find in Mitchell and that market has some beautiful historic homes there.

    Litchfield is one of those towns that offer better values in the housing market which is an easy commute if need be. The taxes in Minnesota are obviously not a regressive as South Dakota’s. Even Duluth voted one of the top cities for outdoor enthusiasts is very affordable.

  41. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-04 08:31

    Hap, $8.50 an hour does not create a middle-class lifestyle. It keeps a one- or two-person household out of poverty, but that’s it. And remember, if we want to say kids aren’t worth the money, we seem to have employers like Bruce Yakley at Trail King saying the adults aren’t worth the money, either.

    Lynn, given the housing price differentials you’re talking about, could Telkamps and other South Dakota housemovers start buying up those nice New Ulm houses, haul them here, and still offer South Dakota buyers a better deal than the overpriced units in Mitchell?

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