COLLEGE STATION– Labor Day takes on more significance this year for minimum wage earners. On Sept. 1, the minimum wage increases 40 cents to $5.15 per hour. It is the second phase of a 90-cent per hour increase. The first phase raised the minimum wage by 50 cents in October 1996.
“Everyone who is being paid less than $5.15 will have to immediately be raised to that level. And any new employee will also have to be paid at least $5.15 per hour,” said Dr. Richard Edwards, agricultural economist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
There is a provision in the minimum wage law which allows for a lower wage to be paid to employees who are under 20 years of age, Edwards added. They can be paid as little as $4.25 per hour for the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment. The provision is referred to as opportunity wage.
Edwards said the provision benefits fast food establishments, seasonal retailers and small agricultural producers the most. For example, a farmer may hire teenagers only during harvest season. Or a fast food restaurant may put new employees on a lower wage while they learn their duties.
“You feel that perhaps you have to train these people and they’re not productive right away, you do have the legal right to pay these people less than the minimum wage,” Edwards said.