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Teen Minimum Wage?

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To say the least, the idea of a teen minimum wage of $4.25 is a horrendous idea with enormously awful policy implications. It also underplays the actual cost of being a teenager which is not going out with Biff and Cindy to the drive-in and maybe getting some malts afterwards and gee isn’t that soda jerk cute. Unfortunately, a 1996 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (thanks Bill!) allows employers to pay workers under the age of 20 $4.25 an hour for their first 90 days of employment. This needs to change. Not only has that number not increased with inflation, but it always was nothing more than a way for the government to allow exploitative employers to be even more exploitative. At its heart is the idea that teenagers aren’t real workers and shouldn’t be treated as such. This still animates conversations about certain sectors of work, as conservatives and even too many liberals dismiss thinking of fast food work as legitimate work worthy of being covered by labor law or being the target of organizing campaigns. That’s teen work, right? But no, it’s often not. Allowing employers to pay young workers less only undermines the wages for everyone. Meanwhile, many of these teen workers are working to pay for AP exams and to contribute to their family’s income. Repealing the teen minimum wage needs to be a top progressive priority.

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