Should Minimum Wage be Lowered for Young People?

should minimum wage be loweredOver the last few years, we have heard a bunch of discussion on the issue of minimum wage. Major politicians around the country have pushed for an increase in minimum wages and we have seen many states raise theirs. That includes here in Arizona.

However, there are some lawmakers in the state that want to make it legal to pay younger people a lower wage than the current $11 an hour. The bill in the state legislature, HB 2523, would allow employers to pay as little as $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage to those who are full-time students under the age of 22 who work less than 20 hours per week. The bill just advanced out of the House Committee on Regulatory Affairs.

Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, says, “Ultimately, if this passes, I believe this will actually increase the number of jobs that are available and get more people in the workforce and help lower the youth unemployment.

Short History On The Minimum Wage

The Arizona minimum wage has been going up for a few years and will continue to rise for a few more. Arizonans approved Proposition 206 in 2016, which has brought the current minimum wage to $11 an hour. In 2020, it will rise to $12 an hour and then adjust upward with cost of living increases each year after that.

The voters approved these changes, not the Arizona legislature. That has left many in the legislature a little bit ticked off because they believe they should be the ones making wage changes. Historically in Arizona and around the country, Republicans have argued against a higher minimum wage, saying that it is a job killer. As with the current HB 2523 proposal, they say that a lower minimum wage will encourage employers to hire more people.

However, Democrats have argued that, as a society, we are making a decision to set a wage that “allows folks that do apply and get positions to then be able to support themselves and live lives that we feel are adequate for the circumstances,” says Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix.

Is This Fair?

There will certainly be a spirited debate over this issue. Many people may not like the legislature attempting to undo some aspect of what the people have already said should be a fair wage. That being said, we send our elected officials to make decisions for us and trust they will make the right ones. Currently, along with many House and Senate Republicans, this measure is supported by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the National Federation of Independent Business. Both of those groups attempted to block the 2006 and 2016 minimum wage hikes through litigation.

There are many questions about whether or not lawmakers can even make a change like this due to the fact that it is the voters who have approved the minimum wage increases in Arizona, not the legislature. That means that the wage may be protected by the Voter Protection Act, essentially barring lawmakers from touching the wages.

What You Can Do

Regardless of whether or not the proposed legislation will affect you, please know that you have a right to be paid at the minimum levels set forth by the state and federal governments. If you are not being paid a fair wage, including appropriate overtime, you should seek assistance from an Arizona employment attorney. Qualified and experienced legal counsel will be able to guide you through your options and ensure that you are being treated fairly.

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