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Bellingham Bulletin

Letter to the Editor: Lower Minimum Wage for Teens Would be Harmful in Several Ways

Feb 27, 2019 06:38PM ● By Pamela Johnson

Tom Merolli of Mendon says a separate, lower wage for teens would do more harm than good.

Dear Editor,
With the minimum wage increasing, an idea has been floating around of a separate, lower minimum wage for teenagers. This idea has been brought to life in the form of two bills which have been filed in the state legislature, with one being sponsored by our own Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), and co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Soter (R-Bellingham).

While I understand the good intentions from which an idea such as this might spring, this is an idea which troubles me greatly. While the popular conception of teenagers in the workforce might be that they are working to make extra spending money, this is increasingly not the case.

According to a 2017 report by the Mass Budget and Policy Center, average teen wages have contributed 7% of the total income of the average family in MA. For families considered low-income, or in the lowest 20th percentile, that number increases substantially, with teens contributing to 17.7% of the total family income.  Teenagers are increasingly relied upon to provide income for their families, and reducing the wage that teenagers get will make things much more difficult for families around the state.

Another consequence to these bills is that it will force older employees, who rely on these jobs to make ends meet to compete with teenagers who would be able to be hired at a cheaper rate. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 11.5% of the Massachusetts workforce directly benefited from the recent minimum wage increase.

Not to mention, minimum wage workers have gotten older. In the US, 88% are over 20 years old and the average age of someone working minimum wage is 35. If the goal is to increase the amount of teenagers in the workforce, it may do that, but to the detriment of many of the workers already there.

This economy is nearing full employment. Because of this, there won’t be a need for a special wage to coax businesses to create jobs for teens. I understand the concern of small businesses towards the recent “grand bargain” which raised the state minimum wage. However, there are many different solutions that can be discussed to blunt the impact upon the hiring ability of small business owners, such as small business tax credits.

Lets not create a second class of worker when we don’t need to, and let us not make it harder for the hundreds of thousands of employees already working a minimum wage to stay competitive in the job market.

Sincerely,
Tom Merolli
Mendon, MA
Tommerolli@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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