Letter to the Editor: Minimum wage bill ‘grossly unfair’ for employees under age 20

Portsmouth resident and parent John McDaid calls the proposed minimum wage bill, House bill H5594, "grossly unfair" for employees under age 20.
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PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Portsmouth resident and parent John McDaid calls the proposed minimum wage bill, House bill H5594, “grossly unfair” for employees under age 20, in the following letter to the editor published verbatim. 

As a recently retired parent of a 17-year-old from Portsmouth who has worked since I was my son’s age, a fair minimum wage is important to me. 

Rep. Ken Mendonca’s (R-72) House bill H5594, which would limit wages for all employees under 20 years of age to $9.65/hour, is grossly unfair. I believe in equal pay for equal work; this bill would discriminate based solely on age. If the General Assembly acts to increase the minimum wage, as it may this session, why would it not extend young Rhode Islanders equal protection?

At a Labor Committee hearing last week, Rep. Mendonca raised concerns about the impact on jobs. But anyone who has studied the data will recognize that the correlation between minimum wage increases and job loss is tenuous and inconclusive. Analysis by the National Employment Law Project concludes that neither teen nor overall employment suffers: “Basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages.” Their reports are available at http://bit.ly/riminwage, http://bit.ly/riminteen.

A sub-minimum wage would directly hurt young, struggling families in our state. And older workers are not immune, since this bill tacitly encourages age discrimination. If employers are as motivated by the bottom line as Rep. Mendonca suggests, wouldn’t they always choose (and churn through) teen workers to reduce their costs?

And as a parent of a child approaching college age, I want my kid to get every penny he deserves at work. Paying for college is no picnic. I want any member of the general assembly who supports this bill to look my son in the eye and tell him “An hour of your life is worth less than an hour of mine. And I think that is fair.” 

Honestly, I am ashamed that a representative from Portsmouth sponsored this bill, and I urge the general assembly to treat it with the contempt it deserves. As my 17-year-old would say, “Kill it with fire.”

John G. McDaid
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