A bill removing a provision allowing businesses to pay below minimum wage to trainees and those under age 18 cleared the Delaware Senate Tuesday.
HB88 would cut out loopholes that allow Delaware businesses to pay 50 cents below minimum wage to employees under 18-years-old, or anyone in their first 90 days of employment.
Senate sponsor Jack Walsh (D-Newark/Pike Creek) said age and employment time shouldn't be factors that allow businesses to pay below minimum wage.
"The hard working men and women of this state don't pay different rents based on their age, and the price of a gallon of milk doesn't change based on how long they've been employed."
Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Bethany Beach), who owns supermarkets in Ocean View and Clarksville said as the battle over minimum wage has raged on, he's been forced to make choices to hire less employees.
"When we passed the minimum wage bill before, I put in four self-checkouts. I had one cashier doing what four used to do. Now I have eight, and if we pass this, I'll likely have 12 in a very short time."
Hocker's colleague Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) said the training wage serves a purpose, especially since it has the 90-day cap.
"I think the training wage is an important tool to help young people get their feet wet in the working environment, and it is only for a short amount of time."
Sen. Nicole Poore (D-Bear) said that extra 50 cents per-hour can really be key money for many struggling families.
"There are a lot of children, a lot of young adults, who are actually helping to support their families. Why should we discount them on the dollars that they should make?"
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) said paying for lower wages accounts for expenses and time businesses use for training new and young employees.
"It is a tradeoff, you have an employer that gets a new hire, that teaches them skills for a period of time, the time and the effort that they put in to train that employee is something that should come back to the employer in the training wage."
Sen. Hocker said he's hired younger employees as baggers, and questioned whether younger employees put out work equal to others receiving minimum wage.
"I would love for any of you use watch those 14-year-olds and tell me they are even worth what they are being paid [before] of the tips. It's going to hurt that age group, I can assure you, and it will cause a lot more automation. I've been there, I've done that."
The vote went 13-8, with Smyrna Senator Bruce Ennis flipping to join all seven Republicans in opposition.
"I don't think 90 days is too burdensome, it's temporary. The only way I could support this bill is if I had proof there was rampant abuse by an employer, who just hired someone for 90 days, let them go, and then hired a new employee, then I could support it."
Sen. Walsh said it's a modest increase, but a loophole that had to be closed.
"This is 50 cents we're talking about, it's discriminatory, and it's immoral. The time has come, today, to repeal the youth and training wage."
HB88, which passed the House 26-15 in May, now goes to Governor Carney's desk for his signature.