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Protect Initiative, Mobilize Young Dems: Refer the Youth Minimum Wage

I would say Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) is pushing hard for the youth minimum wage, but that might exaggerate the forcefulness with which David Novstrup legislates. When David talks about Senate Bill 177, he sounds less like a man speaking from conviction and more like a boy told by his dad Al, "Son, here's a bill to keep our profits up at Thunder Road. Get everyone to vote for it, and I'll raise your allowance."

But neither David nor Al has to work too hard on this child labor law. They have Republicans itching to undo the annoying will of the people, and the youth minimum wage is the perfect angle from which to pee on our populist parade. Senator Novstrup gets to appeal to the disrespect for young people that is all too prevalent among business and legislative leaders. He offers his business pals a chance to save money. And he gets to stick it to people who can't vote or even circulate petitions (see SDCL 12-1-3(9)) to refer the youth minimum wage to a vote, if it becomes law.

But you know, Democrats, if we're looking for a way to engage young voters and soon-to-be voters, maybe we should use Senator Novstrup's attack on young workers' rights as our number-one organizing tool. If we can't stop the Republican supermajorities from passing SB 177, maybe we refer the youth minimum wage to a public vote. We get moms and dads to circulate petitions with their working teenage sons and daughters: Mom and Dad hold the clipboard and sign the oath, but the kids make their case for workplace equality. We promote Young Dems rallies across the state where industrious youth can talk about trying to raise money for college to keep themselves and their parents out of debt. We hand the kids flyers with pictures of fun-park operators Dave and Al and the rest of the Republicans and tell the kids to tell their friends, "If they have R's in front of their name, they voted to cut our paychecks 11%." And when November 2016 comes, we get them to bring all of their voting-age friends to the polls to vote against the youth minimum wage and against everyone who voted for it.

It would be preferable to save all that effort, mobilize a big youth turnout at the Legislature next week, and kill Senate Bill 177 now. But if SB 177 passes, we should refer it. That referendum would show Republicans that we voters really are the boss. A referendum on the youth minimum wage would also help teach young voters and future voters that politics is about vital pocketbook issues that demand their attention.


  1. Tim 2015.02.27

    Cory, agree with everything you say but one.
    "That referendum would show Republicans that we voters really are the boss."
    The only way we truly show them who is boss is to vote them out. Voting them out and showing them we have had enough is the only way they will respect us as their employers of sorts.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.27

    Tim, I happily cede that point. Ballot measures are half of the battle. They should culminate in getting voters to vote out the legislators who keep thwarting their will.

  3. Tim 2015.02.27

    I wonder how many of these young people that are being taken advantage of will turn 18 between now and 2016 and will make them pay for this sham of a law.

  4. Nick Nemec 2015.02.27

    I e-mailed some Republican legislators, who I've known for years and am on a first name basis with, about this issue. So far no reply, they really have their marching orders on this one.

  5. Tim 2015.02.27

    I still think this is only the beginning, the real assault on the minimum wage law will come next year, I expect them to attempt to roll it back next session. To try and change it 3 months after it was voted on would be a mistake and they know it, in the mean time, take advantage of a block of people that can't vote and see how much blowback they get, if people don't push back on this the full rollback comes next year, ALEC controls everything of importance that happens here and wage suppression is at the top of the list.

  6. Curt 2015.02.27

    I tend to agree w/ Tim - we probably should be judicious in our use of initiative/referendum process. In addition to this issue, I've now heard (or read) suggestions that pay-day loan interest, legislative re-districting, school funding (corp tax), - even SB 69 (candidate petition filing) should be placed on the ballot. There is a limit to the effectiveness of this tool and we may be approaching it.
    As to the issue of minimum wage, experience on both sides of the employer-employee transaction taught me that as with most matters, one gets what he/she pays for. Pay minimum wage, get minimum performance. My goal was to find the best talent and pay them (and treat them) that way. Instead of paying (and getting) the minimum, I sought to pay the maximum our business could afford. It worked. Morale improves, turnover decreases, and everyone benefits. Not only did we retain our good people, we attracted talent from the competition. I don't expect the Novstrup family to follow our model, but I hope their competitors will.

  7. Bob Klein 2015.02.27

    Perhaps it is time to write some constitution to keep them from messing with initiatives.

  8. David L. Newquist 2015.02.27

    There is an attitude among those who give scriptural authority to "business decisions" that any measure that increases profits is justifiable. While some small business owners joke about hiring kids who don't know which end of a broom to sweep with and give voice to thtat perennial whine that if they had to pay the minimum wage, they couldn't afford to give kids jobs, the fact is that these kids take on some of the most arduous, noisome tasks that most adults prefer to avoid. And many of these young people taken on responsibilities that contribute to the successful running of the businesses. The exploitation of youth labor to enhance profits is in the moral category of slave labor. An old adage I've heard since I came to South Dakota is that the state idea of economic development would be the repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. This is shameless, but it is a repudiation of the voters of the state, those voters choose the representatives who consistently refute the will of the people.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.27

    Maybe we will have to have another IM for minors to get equal pay for equal work, that's a darn shame since we already did it, but obviously Republicans didn't get the message. A new reinforcement message is in order.

    Like Nick Nemec said on a previous post, this is clearly age discrimination, hopefully some of these minor workers have retained (pre-paid) Patrick Duffy to fight for them.

  10. Jaka 2015.02.27

    RC-Repubs won't get the 'message' until they get their asses handed too them in the voter ballot box and then they'll kick their wounds, whine, and maybe, just maybe, contemplate what happened to them... It WILL come, I don't know when but it will. Arrogance is finally awakened to by even the dumbest of voters.

  11. Tim 2015.02.27

    I don't know Jaka, there are a lot of stupid voters in Rapid City, they just pull the R lever then bitch about the results.

  12. Donald Pay 2015.02.27

    So, they're f____ing with your initiative, are they? Here's a tactic I thought up when I was in SD, but didn't have the guts to try.

    F____ with their bills. Instead of referring that bill, find one of the Governor's/special interests' pet bills, one they really, really want. Refer that one.

    Tell them right up front, you screw with our initiative, we're gonna make you pay. Let them know the public is fed up with their arrogance, and you're going to nip it in the bud the way they might, just might, come around to a proper understanding of the state motto.

    You're going after one of their pet bills to use as revenge for what they did to your initiative. Let the public know that you've had it with the Governor, legislators and special interests disrespecting the public's vote, and you'll have people lined up around the block to sign the petition.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    Good catch, Dana! Let's hold these legislators accountable for their own words.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    Good strategy, Donald. I'm curious: which of this year's bills are the Governor's greatest priorities? Which ones would hurt him and the GOP leadership the most and benefit the people the most to repeal?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    Roger, I apologize for missing this conversation on another thread, but could we overturn the youth minimum wage in court as age discrimination? Could we establish that 16-year-old workers have a right to equal pay for equal work?

  16. scott 2015.02.28

    When everyone is out shopping this weekend, make a point to look for the South Dakota Retailers Association logo at the business you are shopping at. If you see this logo, make a point to tell the store owner or a member on management that your are disappointed in their business supporting an organization that is fighting FOR SB 177. Make it known you support the recent vote of South Dakotans to raise the wages of all South Dakotans.

  17. Richard Schriever 2015.02.28

    Better yet - an initiated constitutional amendment to keep legislators' hands off voter initiatives for at least 10 years.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.28

    Nick made the comment on age discrimination on the Business Caucus: Raise Taxes, Exploit Young Workers, Keep State Debt Collections Private Thread.

    And yes I do think this could be challenged in court on two fronts, it does appear to be age discrimination and the legislature is going against the wishes of the voters. The SDDP needs to step up their game and challenge the Republicans on this.
    Note that the Republican legislature only challenged those youngsters that can't vote.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    If we challenge in court, we may be plowing new ground. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to discrimination against older workers, not younger workers. We would have to advance some new argument based on new Constitutional thinking to create a new precedent to protect 16- and 17-year-old workers from wage discrimination based solely on their age.

  20. Nick Nemec 2015.02.28

    I attended a legislative cracker barrel today (2-28-15) in Highmore. I brought up the sub-minimum wage, Rep. Tim Rounds responded that there will likely be an amendment offered to change the bill so that 17 and 16 year olds would not be subjected to the sub-minimum wage. As he envisioned it the sub-minimum wage would only apply to those who had not yet reached their 16th birthday. This improves a bad bill, my recommendation is to support the amendment and then oppose the amended bill.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    Nick, that's at least news in the right direction... but what percentage of workers are under 16? And does Rep. Rounds really mean what he's saying? At what point in the debate over SB 177 have legislators not mentioned 16- and 17-year olds? Come on—how does Rounds "envision" the bill only to applies to kids under sixteen when Novstrup's bill text clearly refers to kids under 18?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.28

    I get the impression Rounds is running for cover: these GOP guys see the public will rake them over the coals for tinkering with the initiated minimum-wage increase, but they are so doggedly committed to doing something to tweak us (and by us, I mean Democrats and the electorate) that they can't back down and just can the bill, so they have to keep looking for some tiny slice of labor whom they can whack.

    Keep opposing, folks! We already have a training wage; this bill is unnecessary.

  23. Nick Nemec 2015.02.28

    Also of interest was Rep. Mary Duvall's comment that she had problems changing a citizen passed bill only a few months after the vote. She didn't actually say she would oppose the bill but did express that concern. So there's that.

    My gut reaction is to take an amendment that makes the bill less broad but still oppose the amended bill because it's still bad.

    Time will tell if Rep. Rounds will carry through on the amendment he talked about in Highmore. He is the chair of House Commerce Committee and could have offered such an amendment there but didn't. He might be feeling some post committee meeting heat from constituents, I hope others are too.

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