Proposed bill will allow businesses to pay some workers less than AZ minimum wage

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- State lawmakers are discussing a new bill that would allow businesses to pay students a lower minimum wage, so that more of them can get jobs, but opponents say the bill is a ripoff, and lets businesses get out of paying a decent wage.

If passed, the "Youth Employment Act" will allow for full-time college student in Arizona who area younger than 22 years old and working less than 20 hours a week to be paid $7.25, the Federal minimum age, instead of the higher Arizona minimum wage rate of $11. While it is true that going from $11 an hour down to $7.25 would be a 34% pay cut, backers say it would allow more students to land part-time jobs.

"A lot of students have trouble finding work," said Gilbert GOP lawmaker Travis Grantham. "It is costly to employ them for 5 to 10 hours a week, and with the state's healthy families requirements, employers find it difficult to bring them in."

Stephanie Vasquez, however, isn't buying it. She was one of the leading figures in the drive to increase the state's minimum wage. At Fair Trade Cafe, her coffee shop near Downtown Phoenix, Vasquez pays above the $11 an hour minimum wage, and she takes a dim view of the bill.

"Beyond disappointed," said Vasquez. "A lot of work done by people. We voted, it strongly passed, and the business community stood behind it. So to think these young people are not given the same as folks who are 23 and beyond, I do not understand that."

What about those full-time students under 22 years old? Do they like the idea of a lower minimum wage just for them?

"That is stupid. Doesn't seem fair," said one ASU student. "We are already paying so much for tuition. I am struggling to buy food and live on the $11 an hour I get for my work."

The bill passed a State House committee 4-3, with Republicans for the measure and Democrats against it. The minimum wage decrease for full-time students still has to pass the full House, then a Senate committee, ands then the full Senate, before it is signed into law by the Governor Doug Ducey.