SF Chamber Summarizes Arguments For and Against Youth Minimum Wage

The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce does a fair job of summarizing the reasons for and against Referred Law 20, Senator David Novstrup’s youth sub-minimum wage. Let’s compare their efforts to divine what proponents and opponents think:

Proponent Rationale

Proponents feel that failure to establish a youth minimum wage minimizes the number of entry-level jobs that employers can provide and when this occurs, it restricts the opportunities that could be provided for more young workers. They also believe that without a youth minimum wage fewer jobs would be available for workers who need them the most, due to the economic constraints that a universal minimum wage would impose upon businesses, leading to a constriction of the job supply in South Dakota [Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, issue brief, approved 2016.07.27].

Notice that these theoretical arguments hinge on empirical claims for which no firm South Dakota data has been supplied. In fact, South Dakota and Minnesota have seen no such harms from increasing the minimum wage, and properly controlled research shows no negative impacts on teenage employment.

Now for the words the Chamber puts in opponents’ mouths:

Opponent Rationale

Opponents believe a youth minimum wage takes advantage of a minor by paying them less for doing equivalent work as an adult—that people should be paid on merit, not on arbitrary distinctions based on age. In addition, they believe legislators have ignored the will of the people when IM 18 was passed by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, and where the legislature abdicated the legal effect of IM 18 through the passage of SB 177 just a few months later in March 2015 [SF Chamber, 2016.07.27].

Note that these arguments require far less evidence and are far harder to refute than the proponent arguments. The youth minimum wage makes it possible to pay a seventeen-year-old less for the same work as the nineteen-year-old next to her is performing. The age distinction is arbitrary: we can find able, diligent sixteen-year-olds and bumbling, laggardly twenty-year-olds and fifty-year-olds. The voters did pass Initiated Measure 18, the minimum wage increase, by a 55–45 vote, and the votes of the Novstrups and other Republicans did abrogate (I think that’s the word the Chamber wanted) the legal effect of IM 18. Each one of those statements is plainly true, requiring only reference to the 2014 election results, the text of each law, and our own experiences with workers of different ages.

The Chamber emphasizes in its own words, not just the words it ascribes to opponents, that Referred Law 20 “was passed into law in an attempt by the legislature to override the legal effect of IM 18.” The legal effect of IM 18 was the will of the voters. The Legislature passed Referred Law 20 to override the will of the voters. Even the Sioux Falls Chamber gets that fact.

11 Responses to SF Chamber Summarizes Arguments For and Against Youth Minimum Wage

  1. Thats why i dont belong they are against the workers and unions.

  2. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr.

    The Chamber’s rationale that the “failure to establish a youth minimum wage minimizes the number of entry-level jobs that employers can provide and when this occurs, it restricts the opportunities that could be provided for more young workers.” is utter fancy. One only has to drive down any main throughway in any town in this state as we speak to now that there is a high demand for workers in the service industry especially (young and/or old) under the current minimum wage structure. To empower employers with a two-tier minimum wage system will not increase jobs for the youth, but it will allow and encourage employers to hire youngsters over the adult working poor and the adult working class citizens of our state, which will cause greater strains and costs to our safety net which is funded to a large degree on the backs of South Dakotans fortunate enough to not be caught up in this unnecessary struggle between potential young employees and the working poor, if LR20 is upheld by the votes, that is – a reality which will ensue if we empower employers in this state to discriminate against one worker for another merely because of an arbitrary age distinction….

  3. happy camper

    Society makes divisions, and thankfully we are a country that recognizes childhood, adolescence, adulthood. They’re kids, pay em accordingly. Very soon they will have to accept adults responsibilities. Till then let them have a different set of standards and a different set of rewards. There’s always somebody who wants to take all the fun away.

  4. Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t touch on where the benefits of cheap child labor begin to taper off. Funny they never stood for lowering child wages before [to my recollection]. Yet, today they state it so matter factly: how lower child wages release our economy from ‘constraints.’

    To heck with the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Republicans – on this one.

    Like they did to the Affordable Health Care Act, Republicans are clamouring to neuter the first significant progressive achievement in quite some time – in South Dakota. That’s all.

  5. Hap, I can distinguish between kids and adults: if they aren’t in the workforce, they’re kids. If they are reporting for work, they are adults. If 16- and 17-year-olds are willing and able to take on the adult responsibility of paying work outside the home, they deserve the reward of an adult wage.

    Note that the proponent rationale is not the Sioux Falls Chamber’s—they offer proponent and opponent rationales but do not declare a position of their own.

  6. Darin Larson

    Happy, the people taking the fun away from kids who work are the Republicans that passed this bill. For some kids, working is not a lark. It is the way their family can afford decent clothes, school supplies and food. For some kids without means, their jobs provide the money to further their education after high school. Some kids have to accept adult responsibilities a lot sooner than others.

  7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the youth minimum wage isn’t adjusted for COE or inflation like the regular minimum wage is. This means our legislature will need to continually revisit this issue and make adjustments to the wage every few years.

    Thus, if you want smaller government and feel our legislature should spend their time on more important matters rather than having this same argument year after year, then you should be against the youth minimum wage. We have wasted enough time on this already and even the proponents claim in most areas it won’t reduce wages (Novstrup himself admits he wouldn’t lower wages in his Aberdeen amusement park) thus it is a bill meant to solve a problem which doesn’t exist.

    We shouldn’t care if someone is 17 or 19. Pay them a fair wage and stop assuming kids are worth less than there adult peers. Also keep in mind there are a lot of families out there where the kids are providing what the (often single) parent cannot. A youth minimum wage is just another vehicle designed to ensure the poor stay poor.

  8. happy camper

    I struggle understanding why others find it objectionable to simply pay people what they are worth in an open market, what could be more equitable (and honest)? That does not preclude having a floor in other ways so people with limited abilities and aptitudes get assistance. Also I find it disingenuous to say young people must be paid to buy clothes when even in our small town those of limited means have access to a clothing bank and our thrift store offers their aging stock for 25 cents per article or even 2 for 25 cents just to get rid of the stuff. Socks are 20 cents a pair every day. So we have an atheist skeptic unwilling to pay people what they are worth and wants to redefine anyone with a job as an adult. Certainly I’m not the only one who has been 15 years old but in no way worth minimum wage probably I’m not worth it now.

  9. Darin Larson

    Ya Happy, kids can get their clothes at Goodwill and much of their food at the Banquet or local foodbank and other necessities of life or necessities of school can just be given to them by charities. If they need transportation, they can ride the metro or if they are out in the country, they can get a bicycle for $10 at a rummage sale. If they are in need of health insurance, they can just go to the emergency room. Dignity and self reliance are overrated.

  10. Happy, part of the problem with the open market concept is that companies often have taken advantage of their employees. They are more than willing to pay poverty level wages knowing that state and federal tax dollars will provide subsidies and necessary services. Why should that be ok? Why should our tax dollars fill the gap that the employer is unwilling to?

    As far as clothing banks or thrift stores, you aren’t likely to find those in towns of a few hundred people. Asking employers to pay their employees a very minimum wage isn’t asking too much. If they don’t feel the employee is worth it, they don’t have to hire them and they can try to manage on their own.

  11. Hap, I’m all for paying people what they are worth, as determined by fair market forces. But the market needs to work within certain parameters, imposed by morality when possible, by government when morality fails, to ensure recognition of a basic level of human dignity for every worker.

    To avoid terminal terminology, how about I stick with a definition of worker rather than adult? Every worker, everyone who shows up to work, deserves a certain equal level of protection from the exploitation Craig speaks of. As Craig says, let hiring and firing decisions determine whether workers have sufficient skills to be in the workplace. Let pay differentials and benefits above minimum reward differences in ability and productivity. But let every worker receive the same minimum consideration for the sacrifice they make by reporting to work and submitting to the boss’s authority.