Teen Workers Need the Full Minimum Wage

I grabbed a great seat for Tuesday's State House hearing on the minimum wage. I wanted a seat with a good view of the folks testifying. Rachael Collins and her colleagues from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United slid into seats next to me. By noon, Gardner Auditorium was filled to capacity . 

The SEIU 1199 organizer sitting to my left shared good information with me. His personal story itself was a testimony to the value of a strong bedrock minimum wage. His parents were teens when he was born, which judging by his salt and pepper hair might have been in the late seventies. In his childhood, they supported themselves through minimum wage work.

He also told me about a conversation he had with a hardware store owner. The owner said that at a $15/hr minimum wage, he would hire only adults, no teens. Presumably, in his view, teens are not mature enough take the responsibility of work. If that's the sentiment of most employers, it could be bad news for teens. On the other hand, employers should take to heart their responsibility to hold a teen employee accountable as they would an older one.

I remember a good friend telling me that her teenage son, who wouldn't pick up a wet towel in the bathroom let alone keep his room neat or remember to take out the trash, was a completely different person at his job at a CVS store. He was consistently on time and on task at the store. She gave the store manager and the paycheck credit for the new man she saw in her son.

Teens, especially in lower income levels, have financial obligations to themselves and their families that they might not have had years ago. They need and deserve the full minimum wage to start off their work career.

Regrettably, I had to leave the hearing early. The panels of speakers in support of the badly needed wage increase were extraordinary. It's clear to me and to just about all the people in the auditorium that the time to raise the wage to $15/hr for workers has come---regardless of their age.

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published this page in The Latest 2017-09-20 12:04:44 -0400
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