In a world where the Fight for $15 is driving the national discussion on the minimum wage, an Arizona lawmaker is fighting to actually lower the minimum wage.
Arizona voters approved a ballot initiative raising the state’s minimum wage in 2016. By 2020, Arizona’s minimum wage will be $12 per hour. That is, unless Rep. Travis Grantham (R-Maricopa County) gets his legislation passed.
Under Grantham’s proposal, full-time students would only make the federal minimum wage of $7.25. He argues that this would allow students to engage in low-skilled work that businesses are unwilling to pay $12 per hour for.
“It affords the opportunity for people who currently don’t have jobs to get jobs,” he said.
Ignoring the anecdotal evidence about the damage poverty does to college ambitions, a study from Michigan State University highlighted that even working full-time, being able to work your way through college is an artifact of a bygone era.
“I work about 45 hours per week. I wouldn’t have three jobs if it weren’t for the high cost of school. I’m paying my own way through college,” said Courtney Williams of Fullerton College. “I keep up with my studies but I feel like I lose out on college experiences.”
Williams attends college in California, where the minimum wage is nearly three dollars an hour higher than what Grantham proposed in his bill.
“I don’t know one student who says they would want to get paid $4 less than that they currently would have to be paid,” said Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Phoenix).
And despite a climbing minimum wage, Arizona’s economy is growing at nearly double the national average. But still, Grantham insists that paying students less is the best approach for Arizona.
Tempe Democrat Mitzi Epstein disagrees. She cited crushing student debt, low wages and regressive taxes as challenges youth already have to contend with, without creating a special low-wage underclass for the young.
“We are in a world of hurt with our millennials as it is,” she said.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.