Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, has reportedly sponsored a bill that would allow employers to pay teenagers $2.25 less per hour than they have to pay workers who are 20 years old and older. The bill would reduce the minimum wage for teenagers from $7.50 per hour to $5.25 per hour. Under this proposed legislation, L.D. 1346, an employer could pay this reduced wage for the first 180 days of the teenage employee’s employment.
Under this new law, employers will have an incentive to hire teenagers instead of older workers. For instance, if an inn needs a housekeeper for the busy summer season, it can hire a teenager for $5.25 per hour or someone older than 19 for $7.50 per hour. Who do you think it is going to hire? That’s right, the teenager. If this bill becomes law, unemployed Mainers who need work to support their families will likely have an even more difficult time finding jobs. After all, there is no evidence that a shortage of unskilled labor exists in Maine.
Another Republican lawmaker, Debra Plowman, is sponsoring legislation that would allow teenagers to work longer hours. The proponents of Plowman’s bill touted it as a way to help teenagers save for college. This new bill would obviously cut against this purported goal. The money that teenagers would earn working additional hours under Plowman’s bill would be reduced by the lower hourly wage they would receive under Burns’ bill. Moreover, as discussed in an earlier post on this blog, as teenagers work longer hours they experience a higher risk of bad grades and behavior problems, such as drug use.
If you have an opinion about these proposed changes to Maine’s child labor laws, you should contact your representatives in the legislature.