Minimum wage law exemption to help state’s unemployed youth fails

Washington has the sixth highest teen unemployment rate in the nation at around 28 percent. The national average is 17 percent.

But that figure failed to launch legislation this session that could have improved opportunities for teens and young adults to enter or return to the work force.

GOP legislators introduced statutory proposals in each house — companion bills similarly worded — that would have created a training wage in Washington state. Both House and Senate measures fell flat this session, failing to make it past the cut-off, March 13.

HB 1150 and SB 5275 would have allowed small businesses to hire new employees at a less-than-minimum wage for the first 680 hours of work completed.

Sponsor of the House version, Rep. Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee), said the bill was intended to address the chronically high rate of teen unemployment in Washington by incentivizing businesses to provide jobs to young workers with little to no work experience.

The Employment Security Department stated that between February 2012 and January 2013, 124,100 16 to 19-year-olds were estimated to be in the civilian workforce. Of those, 89,000 are currently employed and 35,100 are unemployed and actively looking for work.

According to the legislation proposals, the Department of Labor and Industries would be required to provide a training certificate that would allow employers to pay new employees 75 percent of the state minimum wage or the full federal minimum wage, whichever is greater.

The current hourly state minimum wage is $9.19, with 75 percent of that being $6.89. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. So, according to current minimum wage standards, if the proposals had been adopted, qualifying new employees could be paid $7.25 per hour, thus saving employers nearly $2 per hour from the mandated minimum wage.


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