“A lot of young people in our community are working not because they want to, but because they have to,” Representative Sanchez (D-Dist. 9, Providence) said. “They are out here after school or on the weekends helping their families pay the bills, and they should be paid a fair wage for that.”
State law currently exempts some teenagers from minimum wage protections. Teenagers 14 or 15 years old who work less than 24 hours per week can be paid as low as 75% of the current minimum wage. Full-time students under 19 years of age who work at nonprofit religious, educational, librarial, or community service organizations can be paid as low as 90%.
That, advocates say, creates a two-tiered system that disadvantages all workers.
“I know what it’s like having to work growing up,” Representative Sanchez said. “I know what it’s like having to spend time away from homework, away from friends. I want kids coming up today to earn a fair wage.”