Some Nebraska workers would be making less than minimum wage if new bill passes

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Nebraskans weighed in on Monday on a proposal that would allow businesses to pay younger and inexperienced workers less than minimum wage.

Sen. Tom Briese of Albion introduced Legislative Bill 15.

His measure would amend the voter-approved initiative that passed last year, receiving nearly 59% of the vote.

Nebraska Initiative 433 gradually raises minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026.

“Youth workers typically occupy entry-level positions,” Briese said at the hearing. “Many of our small businesses can’t afford to pay the ballot-level minimum for those entry-level jobs. It creates financial hardship on our small businesses, or it forces youth labor out of the labor market.”

Briese’s bill would create separate rules for employees ages 14 to 17, who would only make $10 per hour by 2026.

It would set a minimum training wage for employees between 18 and 20 years old as well.  They would also only be making $10 per hour by that same year.

Shannon McCord, the owner of Ideal Market in Superior, said without this bill, small businesses could be forced to close.

“I fear for all rural communities that rely on grocery stores to provide them with fresh meats and produce,” McCord said. “I fear for their main streets that rely on them to keep people from driving out of town for their groceries every other day. I fear for the people who don’t have the ability to go out of town. I fear for our rural community’s future.”

Those who oppose LB 15 said younger workers will be taken advantage of.

Others said it creates an ethical dilemma because it discriminates against workers based on age.

“You get paid for your labor, not necessarily the age that you are,” said Felicia Hilton with the North Central State Regional Council of Carpenters. “And I think it’s a slippery slope to start determining people’s wages based on their age.”

Sen. Terrell McKinney, who is on the Business and Labor Committee, heard testimony at the hearing.

One of his main concerns was for his younger constituents who work to help support their families and save for their futures.

Emma Haar, a 15-year-old from Grand Island, told of her own experience as a young worker.

“My family and I live in poverty, so I have to help my family with bills, and I’m also responsible for the costs that are part of my school and extracurricular activities,” Haar said.

She said she spends nearly all of the money from her two jobs on essential items, without much in savings for college.

“This bill treats me like a child when I have the responsibilities of an adult,” she said.

The committee did not vote on LB 15 on Monday.

Categories: Capitol News, Nebraska News, News, Top Stories