Last night, a group of high school students spoke at a forum in Santa Fe about teen life in the City Different. Their top concern/priority? Jobs. It appears that they cannot find work and have no idea about how to secure work. Here’s the thing: Santa Fe has a minimum that stands (as of March, 2015) at $10.84 an hour. On the surface, it sounds like a good salary, but the problem becomes apparent when looked at through the lens of a teen trying to get a gig.
Recently, I spoke with a general manager of a local restaurant to see if he had any openings for my 16 year old son. He shook his head and said, “I’m in the same boat: I can’t even hire my own daughter who’s 16 because I can get more experienced help at the minimum wage.” I went back to my seat and gave his words about 23 seconds of thought.
I walked over to him and discussed the challenge of the “living wage” ordinance and after our discussion, I pretty much agree that the minimum wage is too high for an unskilled entry level worker, which covers most teens. From a strictly value perspective, I think paying a teen who’s never had a gig $10.84 is an expensive proposition.
What do I propose? Well, in speaking with the manager, he and I discussed amending the living wage ordinance to except teens who are in school and can maintain a 2.0 GPA (with only one ‘F’ per grading period), which is the current standard for activity participation as established by the NM Activities Association. Those teens who qualify for the living wage exception would be paid at the federal minimum wage, $7.25. This lower salary would benefit both our local youth and our business community because: a) teens would be more attractive for hire; and, 2) business could actually save on salary costs.
Maybe I’m being too simplistic, but Santa Fe’s economy is dying and needs a jolt in the arm. I urge our governing body to consider this simple amendment; I’m pretty darn certain I could rally support from our service industry…..