Prospective legislation under the consideration of the Michigan Senate intends to decrease the minimum wage for workers under the age of 20. If approved and eventually signed into law, Senate Bill 250 would permit employers to pay any employee under the age of 20 a reduced wage that’s typically reserved only for workers under the age of 18. While the proposed legislation may offer some economic incentives for employers and businesses, the bill is highly presumptuous in nature, and if enacted, it would deny a livable wage to a population of young adults who may be relying on a minimum wage income for more than just spending money.
Currently, legislation in Michigan permits employers to provide young workers under 18 with an income that is 85 percent of either the state or federal minimum wage, depending upon which wage is the greater of the two. These young workers can be paid an hourly wage of roughly $7.25 instead of the statewide hourly wage of $8.15. The proposed Senate Bill 250 intends to extend this practice to individuals 20 years old or younger. However, the intent of the bill operates under the assumption that a majority of the workers in the targeted demographic are merely students or kids seeking a supplementary source of income and have access to other forms of financial means. Additionally, while a lower wage is logical for inexperienced workers who may just be entering the workforce, those 18 or older have reached legal adulthood and often possess financial obligations that require them to be paid as such. A sizable portion of this particular age demographic — rather than attending college — may immediately enter the workforce full-time after high school and an initial minimum wage job may act as their sole source of income to cover all of their expenses. For students, this income may be heavily depended upon to pay tuition or for other related living expenses.
This legislation would be particularly disastrous considering recent rises in tuition rates across the state; the University Board of Regents recently approved a 2.7 percent tuition increase. MSU and EMU will also raise the tuition by 2.7 percent and 7.8 percent respectively. In the midst of college tuition increases, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who must work to pay increasingly high tuition rates simply cannot afford to be paid less than minimum wage. In fact, the emergence of this legislation only threatens to further increase the overwhelming financial burdens individuals in this age demographic face.
One beneficial aspect of the bill is its intent to increase the “training wage” workers can be paid as they gain knowledge of their newly obtained position within their first 90 days of employment. The proposed increases would raise this introductory wage from $4.25 to $6.25 an hour. This, however, in no way excuses the general objective of the legislation.
It’s likely that the legislation was created under the misconception that all adults who are 18-20 years of age are still reliant on parental support. However, this is far from the reality for many young adults. This legislation is not only unnecessary, but unjust. Why should they not earn a living wage simply due to their young age? There is absolutely no legitimate reason to deny one group of adults in Michigan the right to a living wage that all other adults in Michigan are guaranteed.