A bill that has now reached the full Michigan Senate and is awaiting its hearing and vote would increase the training wage for workers under the age of 20, but would also reduce the minimum wage employers can pay 18 and 19 year olds.
SB 250 would currently increase the training wage from $4.25 to $6.25, but allow employers to pay anyone under the age of 20 a minimum wage of only 85 percent of either the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.
Currently, the 85 percent minimum wage rule only applies to people under the age of 18. The minimum wage in Michigan is $8.15 and the federal minimum wage is $7.25
John McNamara, the legislative director for state Sen. Margarette O’Brien R-Portage, said that part of the reasoning for increasing the age from 18 to 20 is because with more kids not being able to work during high school due to increased extracurricular activities means that people are now getting their first jobs later on.
“Businesses are less likely to hire someone in high school because they’re going to say, ‘Oh I can’t work Saturday because I have a soccer tournament,’ or something like that, so businesses are less likely to hire at this age because kids are so involved now and I think sports have become more time consuming as well,” McNamara said.
This summer’s teen unemployment rate is expected to be around 17.2 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. That would continue the trend of it decreasing every year except 2013 since it hit 35 percent in 2010. The largest drop was last year when the teen unemployment rate dropped from 27.1 percent in 2013, all the way down to 20.2 percent in 2014.
State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, who was the lone vote against the bill in committee, said he offered an amendment that would increase the training wage, but would not increase the age of the youth minimum wage from 18 to 20.
“The reason you have a youth wage is to help younger people, minors, get hired so they can get some training,” Hertel Jr. said.
“So we’re all the sudden taking people who have reached the age of adulthood, who have graduated high school, who are in college, who are struggling to pay their bills and struggling with the increased cost of college — and saying to those people that we can pay you less, and to me it makes no sense.”
McNamara does not think it will be a real problem for college students because he said a lot of college students get jobs at national brand places, which he believes would be less likely to take part in a lower minimum wage for 18 or 19 year old.
“I highly doubt (national and chain restaurants) will do this because they have practices that are set by national offices,” McNamara said. “These are going to be kids that are scooping ice cream.”