Bill would allow employers to pay young workers less than minimum wage

Posted at 7:52 PM, Mar 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-02 21:52:30-05

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Phoenix (KGUN) — Minimum wage in Arizona is up for debate, again.

Since going up to $11 an hour in January, and jump to $12 in 2020, now a new bill could lower wages for certain workers.

House Bill 2523 would allow employers to pay below the state minimum wage, and pay the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.

This would apply to full-time students who are under 22-years-old, and work less than 20 hours a week.

Anthony DiGrazia is the owner of Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria on Broadway.

“I’m not a huge fan of $12 an hour being a starting wage in this state,” DiGrazia said.

But he doesn’t think slashing wages for workers is the way to go.

“I don’t think I would, in good conscience, be able to pay somebody $7.25 an hour, if I’m paying somebody who’s doing the same work $5 more, or $8 more an hour,” DiGrazia said.

The bill would affect wages for students, like Hannah Lopez. The University of Arizona junior works at a boutique to pay for rent and other expenses. If the bill passes, she says money would be tight.

“I actually just got a raise, so that’s helped a lot,” Lopez said. “I do think it would probably hurt my economic situation if we lower it a little bit more, but obviously, I don’t think I would quit, I just love the people here so much,” Lopez said.

Representative Travis Grantham sponsored the bill and provided the following statement via email:

Every teenager and young adult deserves the opportunity to enjoy the value of hard work and professional development. This measure will ensure that Arizona’s youth will not be shut out of the workforce, but instead, will have as many opportunities as possible to build work ethic, character, and a resume. Over the last 60 years, the youth unemployment rate in the United States has averaged approximately 12.2 percent, over twice as high as the average unemployment rate across all ages. In addition to the negative impact on economic growth, this is causing an even greater impact on teenagers looking to find a first job. Work force experience at a young age provides incomparable professional, social, and financial value to our country’s youth. From babysitting to working in a grocery store, these formative employment experiences can often set the stage for a lifetime of success.

The bill passed in the Arizona House on Thursday and will now go before the State Senate.