Labor, Michigan Republicans — June 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Another attack on Michigan workers: Republicans move to slash minimum wage for under-20 workers


In their neverending quest to screw over workers to benefit employers, Republicans in Michigan are now turning their attention to those making minimum wage. A bill that would lower the minimum wage by 15% for those under 20 years old was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee today.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage), claims it will solve a problem which doesn’t actually exist.

Youth under 20 years old could make less than Michigan’s minimum wage under a bill that’s headed to the full Senate for consideration.

Under current law, employers can pay people under 18 either 85 percent of Michigan’s minimum wage or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. The bill would change that to include all employees under 20. […]

The bill also bumps up the “training wage,” which employers can pay to people under the age of 20 for the first 90 days of employment, from $4.25 to $6.25 an hour. It was up for a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Rep. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, said it’s usually small local businesses who are willing to take a chance on giving somebody their first job. She knows firsthand that when her kids worked their first jobs at a concession stand they made a lot of mistakes.

“There’s very few employers who will hire a 15, 16 or 17-year-old,” O’Brien said.

Current law provides for a youth training wage of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment for those under 20. O’Brien said that in talking to local businesses, not many use the training wage.

“Most of the employers I’ve talked to in my community do not have a youth training wage but they feel having a youth minimum wage will resolve their issues,” O’Brien said.

Here’s the problem with that last bit: employers don’t have an “issue” other than the fact that they aren’t availing themselves of an option currently available to them, an option that the bill takes away entirely.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, had this take on the bill:

Why is it that conservatives like Margaret O’Brien are so driven to lower workers’ wages across the state? That’s the only thing that this bill actually accomplishes. This bill is a slap in the face to the young people of Michigan. This bill explicitly devalues the young people of this state who are paying for college, helping their families pay the bills or saving for their futures. O’Brien cited her own children as examples of why we need this type of law, failing to account for the thousands of low-income, non-privileged households who in some instances rely on these jobs for survival. This bill is nothing more than an attempt to rob young adults of wages. I hope it never sees the light of day on the Senate floor.

I would say this bill actually IS something more than an attempted robbery. It’s virtually guarantees that nobody over 20 will be hired for a minimum wage job. Corporatists and conservatives will tell you that it’s mostly young people in minimum wage jobs – HERE, HERE, and HERE, for example – despite the fact that it isn’t at all true. According to the Pew Research Center, only a quarter of the minimum wage jobs are held by people under 20.

This bill looks very much like it’s trying to MAKE that falsehood true.

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]