A nickel last time, a dime this time: the Department of Labor has announced that South Dakota’s minimum wage will rise to $8.65 an hour on January 1. In 2014, South Dakota voters set the minimum wage at $8.50 and enacted an annual cost-of-living increase based on the Consumer Price Index, which this year is 1.06% (notably lower than the hyperinflation our District 3 Republican candidates think is happening). Multiply $8.55 by 1.06%, and we get nine cents; our 2014 law says we round that increase up to the nearest nickel.
Voters have a chance, thanks to David and Al Novstrup, to take the increase and another $1.05 an hour away from young workers by voting for Referred Law 20, the notorious youth minimum wage. The Novstrups defend this discriminatory proposal by arguing that employers are more likely to “take a chance” on teenage workers if they can pay those kids less.
But think about the expectation that lower minimum wage communicates to teenagers: Hiring you is a risk. The wage we set for the least qualified worker is still too high for you. You can’t work as hard. You’re not as smart. You’re not as skilled. You’re not as trustworthy.
Now think about the expectation that an equal minimum wage sets for teenagers: If you come to work, we’re going to treat you like an adult. We expect you to work like an adult. Get here on time. Pay attention. Do what you’re told. Work hard. You can do it.
As a teacher, I understand how expectations work. Kids recognize and rise to—or fall to—the expectations we set for them. Let’s not follow the Novstrups in setting low expectations for our kids. Keeping the minimum wage the same for all workers, regardless of age, sends working teenagers the message that we respect their decision to get a job and we expect them to work has hard each hour as anyone else in the shop.