I’m pleased to see that a minimum wage hike is popular enough in my state that even the Republican candidate for Senate has to come out for it in some form. Still, this is an odd approach to the minimum wage:
State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove), who is challenging U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in the November election, has reversed his stance on the minimum wage, and unveiled his own plan to raise it to $10 per hour over three years for adult workers.
Oberweis opposed President Barack Obama’s plan to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour — a plan Durbin supports — before the Republican primary last month, but now has proposed a gradual increase in the minimum wage in Illinois.
His proposal would hike the state’s minimum wage for those who are 26 or older from $8.25 per hour to $9 per hour next year, then again to $9.50 per hour in 2016, and $10 per hour in 2017. The minimum wage for workers between the ages of 18 and 26 would stay at the current rate of $8.25 per hour; for those under 18, it would stay at $7.75 per hour.
There’s this stereotype that minimum wage jobs are mostly held by teenagers working for a little extra spending money while they get job experience. I’m not sure to what extent that was the case before, but with the destruction of so many well-paying jobs over the last few decades, it isn’t now. Almost 88% of minimum wage earners are 20 or older, and about half are 25 or older.
I’m about to date myself here, but when I had my first job at age 15, I got $3.00 an hour because my employer didn’t have to pay minimum wage to employees under 16. But because I was a kid, there were also restrictions on the hours I could work and the jobs I could do, so that sub-minimum wage really did function as a training wage. You couldn’t run your whole store with 15-year-olds (though we came pretty close that summer). But with Oberweis’ plan, it’s hard to see why low-wage employers wouldn’t avoid over-26 workers whenever possible — and those are exactly the workers who are the most likely to be trying to support families, and who need the most help.