Bill would lower minimum wage in Nebraska for minors

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 10:45 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In November of 2022, Nebraskans voted to increase the state’s minimum wage gradually over the next few years. As of January 2023, it went up to $10.50 an hour from $9.

Monday at the state capitol, the Business and Labor Committee heard testimony regarding LB 15, a bill that would lower the minimum wage for minors.

Senator Tom Briese, who introduced LB 15, said it aims to do two things. The first, set the minimum wage for 14 to 17-year-olds to $9 an hour for now, with gradual increases to reach $10 by 2026. The second is to set a new minimum training wage for employees between the ages of 18 and 20.

Briese spoke at a public hearing Monday saying that LB 15 would help offset the financial blow on small businesses after having to raise the minimum wage this year.

“We need to do what we can to ensure the economic viability of our small businesses including our grocers, our restaurants, across main street Nebraska,” Briese said. “We can’t allow legislation like what was on the ballot to force mom-and-pop stores out of business.”

Briese said the bill would also increase training wages for employees between the ages of 18 and 20. Those would go up from 75% of the federal minimum wage to $9.25 an hour instead. That would be the new rate this year, and increase $0.25 each year through 2026.

Proponents of the bill said small businesses are struggling because of the minimum wage increase this year. They said it has made it harder to hire young workers because of how much it costs to pay them. Proponents also argue that teen employees are often working entry-level jobs and the level of pay should reflect that.

“Historically, there have been times when teenagers have been paid less than other employees and there are times in industries and businesses where an entry-level worker makes a different wage than what an experienced worker makes,” said Bud Synhorst with LIBA.

Opponents of the bill disagree. Those testifying on Monday cited costs of living, gas, and other necessity for teenagers who are looking to work full or part-time at a young age. Opponents also said that what the voters passed in November did not exempt anybody from the new wage rates based on their age.

“The issue of whether young workers should be paid any different was before the voters and the voters did not make a distinction,” said Spike Eickhold with the ACLU.

No action was taken on LB 15 Monday night, and there is no timeline yet for when, or if, it could be voted out of committee to the full unicameral for debate.