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Age Discrimination and the Battle for Equal Pay in Michigan

Topics: Current Events

Michigan lawmakers have proposed a bill that has local teenagers in an uproar – and for good reason. Senate Bill 250 would reduce minimum wage from $8.50 to $7.25 an hour for all workers under the age of 20.

cash register

(Photo Credit: Steven Depolo/Flickr)

Employers currently pay workers under the age of 18 either the federal minimum wage, or 85 percent of Michigan’s state minimum wagewhichever is higher. The bill would up the age to 20, thus potentially paying college students and people beginning their careers the same amount as high school students. 

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Why Pay Younger Workers Less?

Sponsoring senator of Bill 250, Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage), told MLive that she had talked with young people about how hard it was to find that first job. She believes the bill could give employers an incentive to take a chance on young employee.

“We want to get their foot in the door … if they can get their foot in the door and get the training and experience they need then their wage will go up to minimum wage or higher,” O’Brien said.

She goes on to explain that even if a job doesn’t pan out, teenagers have that employment experience and are able to seek another job.

Is It Right to Pay Young People Less for the Same Work?

Local students like 17-year-old Logan Arkema are fighting back. Arkema, a senior at Michigan’s Byron Center High School, is the former chair of the Michigan High School Democrats. He now serves as development director for High School Democrats of America.

“I’ve got friends who are on the far right of the political spectrum and on the far left and they all, virtually, agree that this is not good for them or any high school students,” Arkema says.

To put things in perspective, think back to when you landed your first job in high school. Most of us who took to the workforce early in our lives did it as a way to support ourselves, and save for college. It’s not uncommon for high school students to be 100 percent responsible for financing their own cars and education. For some, it might even be to help support their own family. When kids assume their first job, it’s because they want to be treated like an adult, and paid like one too.

If Bill 250 is passed into law, MLive reports that the state would be the only one in the U.S. to pay any non-tipped employee over 18 less than the state’s minimum wage. In the meantime, Arkema continues his fight for equal wages in Michigan. He’s currently seeking 1,000 signatures on a petition at if you want to support the cause.

Tell Us What You Think!

Do you think Arkema’s movement will overcome Bill 250? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.

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