Supporters, Opponents React To Youth Minimum Wage Vote

South Dakota Voters Rejected Referred Law 20 on Tuesday

South Dakota Referred Law 20, which would have set a minimum wage of $7.50 for workers under the age of 18, was defeated by voters last Tuesday.

Michael Hillman, owner of the Roll’n Pin restaurant in Sioux Falls, supported the law.

He said he felt misunderstood about his support for the proposal.

“It’s easy to think or easy to say that hey, we’re the employer and oh, they just want to save a buck,” said Hillman.

He said his concerns went further than the paying wage rate.

“This has very little effect on me as a business. The only affect that it has is that we will see less youth having jobs,” said Hillman.

He said he believes lower wages allow employers to build up inexperienced workers for future, higher paying jobs.

With higher wages, however, he said he worries it will cheat younger workers out of a chance.

“If two people walk through the door and somebody has experience and knows how to wipe a table, knows how to sweep a floor, knows how to mop the floor and somebody doesn’t, in what world would I want to hire them, the person who doesn’t have any experience or know how to do those things, why would I ever want to hire them when I can pay somebody else at the exact same rate who does know how to do those things?” said Hillman.

Opponents such as Augustana University Professor of Economics, Reynold Nesiba, say Referred Law 20 was “undemocratic.”

South Dakota voters chose initiated measure 18 in 2014 that raised the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour with an annual inflation adjustment.

With the issue coming up again two years later, Nesiba said the decision was already made.

“I think that the people of South Dakota don’t like that, when the legislature undoes what they had done through the initiated measure process,” said Nesiba.

Nesiba also said doesn’t believe a higher wage could impact a young worker’s prospects.

“The minimum wage of $8.55 is really very modest by other states standards, modest historically and the unemployment has continued to come down,” said Nesiba.

The minimum wage in South Dakota is scheduled to go up to $8.55 an hour on January 1st, 2017.  

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