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Senate Passes Youth Minimum Wage to Exploit Child Labor, Defy Voter Initiative

Last updated on 2016.10.19

South Dakota Senate Republicans yesterday declared that neither young people's labor nor the popular will matter when they want to cut business a break. On a party-line 26–7 vote, the Senate yesterday passed Senate Bill 177 which would set the minimum wage for workers under 18 at $7.50, a buck less than the $8.50 South Dakota voters established as the minimum wage last November.

Prime sponsor Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen, who speaks as if he is afraid of the microphone, or of his own bill) says he's just trying to give kids the opportunity to work. He asserts that business owners have told him the increased minimum wage is causing them not to hire young people, allowing them to pay kids less ensures they can still get jobs. When asked by Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) how many workers would be affected by this pay decrease, Senator Novstrup admitted he doesn't have numbers. "There's a lot of games you can play with statistics," said Novstrup... which statement is the hallmark of a debater who is losing an evidence-based debate.

In response to concerns that employers would lay off adult workers to exploit cheaper youth labor, Senator Novstrup pointed to the line in Section 2 of his bill that says, "No employer may take any action to displace an employee, including a partial displacement through a reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, in order to hire an employee at the wage authorized in this Act."

While Senator Novstrup digs through his briefcase looking for the enforcement mechanism for that clause, I ask this question: suppose you're starting a business. You need an entry-level worker. You get apps from a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, both about equally qualified. Whom will you hire: the 19-year-old at $8.50 an hour, or the 17-year-old at $7.50 an hour? Nothing in SB 177 stops you from making the economic choice and getting the same labor less money, thanks to GOP age discrimination.

Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) said such age discrimination does not reflect South Dakota values. He said we should respect the dignity of work, regardless of the worker's age.

Senator Sutton added that we should also respect the will of the voters. South Dakotans voted to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour last November, without qualification or exception. Senator Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center) said SB 177 doesn't violate the people's will; it just adds a provision that should have been in the initiative in the first place. Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison) challenged that wordplay: he said that if the minimum-wage initiative had been lacking something, the voters would have rejected it.

Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) then dismissed all talk of the voters' will. He said senators can't sit around respecting the sanctity of the initiative for a year, or two years, or five years, or whatever. Telling legislators they are elected to show "courage," he exhorted them to vote on SB 177 on its own merits, independent of the results of the November election. That's clever verbiage, but it's rhetorical cover for, "You darn Democrats, and you darn voters! We'll show you who's boss! Pass all the initiatives you want; we will by gum change them however we see fit!"

Senate Bill 177 now heads to the House, where high school pages, who work for free, can silently watch their Republican bosses further devalue their peers' labor.


  1. El Rayo X 2015.02.19

    The youth opportunity employment business model has worked successfully worldwide for years. The young craftsmen from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam have proven our legislators correct in their decision to pass SB177. Maybe with a little fine tuning, South Dakota employers could pay young girls even less.

  2. John 2015.02.19

    I think SD has played the low wage card for so long we can't see the alternatives. Higher wage states have found the path to profits lye in innovation and technology. Now we don't know how to innovate and can't afford to hire people who do.

  3. John Tsitrian 2015.02.19

    El Rayo X, with your permission I would like to c & p your comment to my blog The Constant Commoner.

  4. Nick Nemec 2015.02.19

    And ironically South Dakota is an employ at will state. An employer can fire any employee, at any time, for any reason without an explanation. If a young person wasn't living up to the expectations the boss has of $8.50/hr employees the boss could fire the slacker at any time. The Republicans just want to screw young people as a favor to their business bosses.

  5. Alan Fenner 2015.02.19

    So much for the "Will of the People"............again.

  6. mike from iowa 2015.02.19

    Why is this a surprise? Don't wingnuts devalue kids from the moment they are forced to be born by not wanting to feed or educate them and god forbid,let them get needed medical care. Let this be a lesson kids. To be appreciated by wingnuts,arrest development at the zygote stage.

  7. Lynn 2015.02.19

    Senator David Novstrup May I suggest our trusted SDGOP establishment legislators create a new bill to exempt South Dakota from child labor laws and have a tiered minimum wage based on age. These young children would be taught the value of a dollar, develop good habits via training, keep them off the streets and help our South Dakota businesses become more competitive.

  8. jerry 2015.02.19

    The South Dakota legislative way, teach youngsters the value of discrimination. In this way, they show us how income inequality really works from the very beginning. El Rayo X is correct in his post about that and how it will just be a matter of time before the SDGOP, along with the Chamber of Commerce, tweaks it further to knock another buck or two off if you are female.

  9. Curt 2015.02.19

    El Rayo X nailed it. /cp

  10. o 2015.02.19

    WalMart announced that it will be raising its floor wage to $10.00. WalMart is moving (closer) to the right side of history on the minimum wage issue. WalMart! But the SD legislature is doubling down on low wages.

    Each American produced an average of $140,000 in goods in 2013, but median wages were less than $28,000. Who's getting that money?

  11. mike from iowa 2015.02.19

    Roughly 8 months from now,kids will be hauled out as unpaid campaign props by family values wingnuts to beat Libs over the heads with.

    Virtually everything wingnuts detest about kids will disappear until the next election. Children are the greatest invention since sliced bread until after the election.

  12. Jenny 2015.02.19

    As usual, the SD GOP is hell bent on keeping the working poor, poor. I just don't see the family values here. Young people need a living wage just as much as older workers. Overpriced college tuition is just one reason why. I hope they're happy with a straight face when they tell the teenagers and college age voters in their district that they are worth one dollar less than the whoopty do 8/50 hr the older working poor get. How inspiring.

  13. leslie 2015.02.19

    O-thx 4 the Allternet article at 11:34 and comments: they are a good discussion that needs airing on the world-wide, or nation-wide stage.

    it is almost that a national law could require no employer could hire a person to conduct its business in the US without adequate protection of the employee.

    instead we have corporations which undermine and exploit employees in every way profitable, undoing the good of the nation for 1% advantage. e.g. Scott Walker eliminates unions in Wisc., SD republicans undermine initiated minimum wage law, right-to-work states injure and exploit unemployment, workers compensation, health care and unionization systems.

    republicans scream about immigration yet demand the subterfuge of employing illegals without legal wage ect protections. unlimited "free speech" in spending and unlimited "right to bear arms" to keep slaves in line (original purpose); but now to protect from big government, Joni Ernst, newest IA, R. senator or congress woman, has openly stated that is why she concealed carries.

    this Allternet article highlights the severe problems the two party political structure engenders. it is time the majority, the 99% stand up in unison to "take it back". Not a bad slogan, and from a South Dakotan, yet (disparraged as he has withstood by the right). we are getting somewhere against the rich.

  14. 96Tears 2015.02.19

    One-party tyranny at work. Again.

  15. o 2015.02.19

    Political parties and legislatures did not create the strong middle class: labor unions did. The shrinking of organized labor has been the demise of the middle class and lead to expansion of the working poor in the US.

    Lesli, as you point out, Walker moved against the unions in Wisconsin, but that has been the battle plan for the whole country. Those actions pave the way to dismantle the middle class, enrich the wealthy, and in many cases peel back the rights of women and people of color. When political parties do not represent "our" interests, we look to organized labor to fill that roll. But when there is no organized labor, who takes up the good fight? WalMart is not raising wages from the goodness of their heart or legislative mandate; they are doing it in response to strong advocacy and pressure of organized labor.

  16. Jenny 2015.02.19

    Right on O, after 90 billion dollars in their pockets, the Walton family is trying to give some pennies away. Mind you, most Wal Mart workers are hired to work less than 30 hours a week just so health insurance doesn't have to be provided to them. So, a lot of Wal Mart workers have to get on some sort of medicaid program or go without health insurance. Great country isn't it, how the system is rigged for the rich.

  17. Roger Elgersma 2015.02.19

    Apparently some people did not know that the word minimum was in the dictionary and had a meaning.
    Minimum wage never was intended for those who have twenty years experience or special talents. Minimum wage was about what is proper for minimum situations.
    Before new management came at the Sioux Falls library there was a fifty year old man who had a noticeable limp and when asked a question always asked us to ask a librarian since he did not necessarily understand the question. He did dress in good cloths and had a very nice quiet demeanor so he fit in a library without causing any problem at all. But he had very simple tasks like straightening out the magazines. He probably got minimum wage and it could be argued that he was not worth it. But if he got less he would have gotten more food stamps, housing assistance etc. I have noticed a few workers in business in this situation as well. So if an employer finds someone who will either be doing nothing in society or can do a little and pay them more than they are worth, that person is more productive than if he had no job and the population general would have to pay all that money in welfare assistance with that person doing nothing. I respect an employer who does a little bit of this type of being a good member of the community. It is not necessary but is a good contribution to the community that normally is not the type of thing that people find out about to get a little praise.
    But for all those teens that are worth the minimum, that would get shorted, I think it is good to keep the minimum at the minimum. There are charitable people that can fit a few select people in a situation that they want to help the poor and save taxpayer money.
    When the majority of teens deserve it, getting fired is more likely to teach those who are not worth it than a lower minimum wage would teach, we need to teach the good majority that they are worth it and fire or have patience with those who are not worth it.
    Productivity in America is at an all time high. That would not be possible if the younger generation was lazy. So do not thumb your nose at them.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.19

    Leslie said, "Scott Walker eliminates unions in Wisc., SD republicans undermine initiated minimum wage law"

    Walker, Daugard and their Koch benefactors swear on a stack of their favorite, and mostly unread bibles, that their course is the way to economic success. But somehow MN, the state that separates themgeographically, is much more successful using liberal economic policies.

    Now who do you trust? The actions and results of Daugard and Walker, or those of Democrat Dayton and MN?

  19. Gayle 2015.02.19

    "The Republicans just want to screw young people as a favor to their business bosses."
    Sorry, it is not just the young people the Republicans are screwing. I started working at 14 yrs. Now I am 64 yrs. College educated, good work ethic, go the extra mile, great computer skills, innovative, great with people..... and I am not making much more than 10 years ago.
    The stories I could tell you about my bosses or the culture of the companies of the last 25 years would be unbelievable.
    Why? The devaluation of the American worker. We are back at the Gilted Age.

  20. Moses 2015.02.19

    I can only thank do nothing for my daughters great teaching job.She saw what they paid and is making twice what she wouldmake here and got a great teaching job in the East,thanks do nothing Gov.

  21. mike from iowa 2015.02.19

    I trust Deb G because of the way those words rolled so cripsly off her tongue through her brain and fingers to my one good ear and two below average eyes(that are smoky,killer bluish).

  22. mike from iowa 2015.02.19

    Walmart,Mickey Ds and other hugely profitable korporations have officials that direct workers to get Medicaid and foodstamps. Then they complain about paying taxes to support gubmint handouts.

    Read a comment today a guy said he has to quit asking how much dumber wingnuts can get because they take that as a challenge.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.19

    Thank you Mike. I enjoyed the last sentence of your 19:25 comment especially.

  24. scott 2015.02.19

    SD struggles to find workers and keep our young people in this state. SB-177 will just make this problem worse.

    If you look how the typical young worker is utilized you will typically see the young fill in a peak business hours and work periods of 2 to 3 hours at a time. So the young actually have less hours of employments to cover there travel expenses over the worker that puts in an 8 hour day, thus the lower wage actually compounds there earning power.

    This is not the republican party I grew up with. This party just cares about themselves these days. There is no caring attitude about the future.

  25. DaveB 2015.02.19

    The people will have to correct another legislative misstep with an initiated measure.

  26. grudznick 2015.02.19

    Did you people know that a substitute teacher makes about 12 bucks an hour if they work 6 hours a day? That's way better than minimum wage.

  27. CK 2015.02.19

    Grudz....Not every school pays subs that one town I made about $9/hr. In another,roughly 12. But that doesn't factor in my drive time and other expenses...let alone the stress of dealing with spoiled brats who like to give subs a hard time.

  28. Paul Seamans 2015.02.19

    Now that Walmart is raising its minimum wage to $10 will our legislature do something stupid to keep South Dakota Walmart workers from somehow receiving that increase. It now appears that the initiative for the $8.50 minimum aimed to low.

  29. leslie 2015.02.19

    for years i have heard the stories of major employers coming to rapid city, planning to pay decent wages, only to be informed of the mistake that would be by mayors, city fathers, other employers, whoever....

  30. leslie 2015.02.19

    grudz, yer gonna just figure this school funding glitch out for us, aren't yah?

  31. leslie 2015.02.19

    mfi, that means green you know. btw, i like iowa, gotta big bruddah down by the mississippi end of it. poor guy. you really can hear corn grow there.

  32. leslie 2015.02.19

    thks, scott. we gotta do something. it is time.

  33. leslie 2015.02.19

    gayle-we need to start telling those 25 years of stories. this state has run away with its zeal as a "right to work" (gag me, the spin from way back when....) state.

  34. leslie 2015.02.19

    way to go sutton and hunhoff. we need to get the little people behind your leadership. well done!

  35. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.02.20

    It appears the Democrats are missing the forrest for the trees once again.. Charges of conflict of interest should have been trumpeted in both chambers of the legislature. The Norvstrups personally benefit from this bill as employers of youth at their amusement parks.

  36. Mike B 2015.02.20

    When I graduated from HS, $20,000 was a dent wage. The problems is that in SD, we have kept that some mindset over 30 years later. A $10/hour job is NOT something to aspire to. You need a bit more to be able to enjoy life.

  37. Gayle 2015.02.20

    Leslie....who do we tell the stories too? No one gives a sheet. The Rethuglians have it sewn up. We are right to work and where is there any protection of the employees, especially when we all need to put food on the table? References from former employers when you walk about after years of verbal abuse or your holidays, wages and commissions have been cut because of a greedy emplyer? Where do you go and complain?

  38. Jana 2015.02.25

    Listened to the testimony on this today and it honestly scares me that these are the people who govern our state.

    The proponents made this out to be it's for the benefit of the kids. Schoenbeck at least said the bill was poorly written, but that he would vote for it for political least we know he is just a political hack...but did appreciate his comments on the bill.

    Lee if it is poorly written law, kill it and send it back! It also frightens me that you would knowingly and willfully pass a law you know is bad. Thought you were better than that.

    The sound was a little fuzzy, but I think I heard the chair say that he was adding a small change to the state motto that would only change one letter and one word.

    "Under GOP, the businesses rule."

    Novstrup, Cronin and others continue to insinuate, if not flat out say that the voters are stupid.

    If you have the stomach, you can listen here.

    I would love to have the transcript on this one! Why aren't there transcripts readily available?

  39. Jana 2015.02.26

    One thing that came out in the testimony is how our two largest industries, tourism and agriculture, hire teen workers and this would be a burden on those industries.

    Makes one think that if our two economic pillars are driven by low wages, what does that say about us and our economy?

    Guess we'll be seeing more tourist attractions and out of state ag companies hiring foreign labor that is more easily exploited rather than paying a fair wage to the teens that help them operate their seasonal businesses.

  40. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.26

    SD voters are clearly ignorant idiots in the eyes of the SDRP.

Comments are closed.