Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SD Dems Would Be Smart To Lead The Charge On Referring The Youth Minimum Wage Law

SD Young Workers:  Guess Who?
Hint:  It Isn't Governor Daugaard.
(photo from mitchellrepublic.com)
     The arrogant manner in which South Dakota officials modified last November's Initiated
Measure 18, which raised the minimum wage across the board to $8.50/hour is indeed causing reverberations.  The measure was all-encompassing in its wording, ordering "every" employer in South Dakota to pay "each" employee $8.50/hour, with a built in cost-of-living adjustment included in the measure. Seems pretty simple and direct. There are some exemptions, but as a practical matter this affects virtually every employer and employee in the state. That a majority of Republican legislators and Republican Governor Daugaard refuse to understand the words "every" and "each" is a matter of record. That these officials justify their passage of a law (Senate Bill 177) that withdraws the mandate from workers under the age of 18 by claiming they can divine voter intent is dismaying, at least, worrisome at worst.
     Daugaard's sentiment at the time of the signing has the makings of a terrible precedent. He stated that he doesn't think this modification of the law is "an affront to the will of the voters" and that the campaign supporting it "focused on adult workers who support a household and not on teenagers."   The state's Democratic Party was probably the most visible supporting organization (the AFL-CIO also pushed for it) and did indeed call attention to the fact that 78% of the 62,000 affected South Dakotans were over the age of 20, "often with a family to support."  But that factual recitation didn't mean supporters were "focused on adult workers."  In general, the support was for all South Dakota workers and their families.  And anyway, since when did Daugaard conclude that income earned by younger teenagers wasn't a part of their families' overall household support? Daugaard's casual assumption that the money teenagers earn is of no importance to their families goes against the grains of history and reality.  I know plenty of situations where the money earned by the youngsters in a family is pooled and spent or saved--especially for things like college and vo-tech educations. That's especially true in a state like ours, filled with family farms and family-operated businesses. We have a long history in South Dakota of families pulling together in mutual support. The work these kids do and the money they earn for it MATTER, Governor Daugaard.
     Ultimately, Daugaard's message to young workers is that their earnings aren't to be regarded as seriously by their employers, their families and themselves as the money made by more mature laborers.  I find this to be a violation of every principle of family unity and common
SD Teen Workers Just Got Stiffed By Daugaard
He Doesn't Think They Matter As Much As Older Workers
(photo from www.ktiv.com)
effort that I've ever heard of.  On that basis, I'll wholeheartedly support efforts made toward referring this noxious rejection of voters will and family values back to the people of the state. Cory Heidelberger gives a good recap on the nuts and bolts of starting a referendum petition over at his perpetually excellent blog Dakota Free Press (nee Madville Times). This might be a great political opportunity for South Dakota Democrats to get behind a rejection of the Governor's assault on our young people. Downtrodden Dems in South Dakota could use a good rallying point, and I can't think of a better one than finding the 13,000 or so petition signatures that it would take to get the Governor's willful devaluation of young workers on the November, 2016, ballot.  

     Referring it would also delay implementing this official brush-off of the worth of young workers for two full summers.  That means the existing $8.50/hr wage--with automatic cost of living adjustments--remains in place long enough for employers, young workers, government officials and everybody else in this state to realize that the prospect of young people being paid the same money as their older counterparts for doing the same work isn't so gosh-awful a predicament after all.  
     I know that enough activists are scattered around the state to round up the necessary number of signatures.  I look forward to adding mine to their petitions.  

1 comment:

  1. This could be a great opportunity for the Democratic Party. I hope they grab it and run with it. Here are some great benefits of doing this.

    1. Shove that bill back up there where the sun don't shine (my favorite).
    2. Opportunity to bring a huge number of new young voters into the party.
    3. Prove that the Will of the People shall not be disrespected.
    4. Cull out a bunch of stupid Republican legislators.

    Who could be against any of those?

    Since Democrats are so chronically outnumbered, this is a viable way for them to have a say in governing.