(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity
(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Don’t roll back child work protections | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

A proposal to roll back child labor protections in Wisconsin is a bad move and we hope the Legislature will reject it.

The bill, released Friday, would allow children ages 14-15 to get jobs without a work permit or parental permission. It’s an odd stance to take, given how concerned some legislators have been about parental notification for what students read in class. Whether to allow junior to have a job would seem to be the definition of a parental rights issue.

We agree, generally speaking, that youth having the opportunity to have jobs is a good thing. The experience of earning a paycheck is an important step toward adulthood. It’s often a reminder as well about why students need to work hard in school. First jobs are rarely the most rewarding or the most fun, and there’s value in students realizing that they need to do well academically to earn better opportunities.

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Current law doesn’t block that opportunity. It simply says the children involved — and ages 14-15 are most definitely still children — need their parents’ permission and a permit that the state can revoke if the child’s safety is being compromised.

The bill’s backers said their effort would improve opportunities for youth to have their first job experiences. But we find considerably more revealing their statement that it would remove “needless administrative barriers that slow down the hiring process.” This is far more about allowing businesses to hire people who aren’t as able to stand up for themselves and who don’t have experience to know what’s safe or acceptable and what’s not.

The timing is particularly troubling. Earlier in 2023 Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation was fined by the Labor Department. The company was caught employing “at least 100 children, some as young as 13,” according to reports. Those children were cleaning equipment in meat packing plants, including bone saws and skull splitters. The company claimed it didn’t realize the workers were minors. That’s laughable.

This is also part of a pattern in recent years. We criticized a proposal earlier this year to allow children as young as 14 to work in bars, serving alcohol. The provisions drew on the theory that there’s a wide difference between serving alcohol to someone sitting at a bar and someone sitting five feet away at a table. Not long ago the restrictions on child labor were even more strict. That changed in 2017, when Wisconsin removed the requirement for work permits for children ages 16 or 17. There’s a better argument for that step, since society trusts teens that age to handle multi-ton vehicles on the roads. There’s a significant difference, both in maturity and physical capabilities, between the average 13-year-old and the average 16-year-old. A lot happens in those years.

Sacrificing child safety as a response to a tight labor market is irresponsible. It’s a step back toward the days when child labor was the standard, rather than child education. In 1900 about 18% of all workers were younger than 16. Opposition to child labor laws in the early 1900s was driven largely by farm concerns. That’s somewhat understandable, since children have worked on family farms since humans developed agriculture. It wasn’t until the Great Depression hit, creating considerable incentives to remove children from the workforce in favor of adults, that the environment we know now came to be.

Children ages 14 and 15 belong in school, not the workforce. An educated population is a key element of modern economies. Schooling is the only way to achieve that. We cannot sanction throwing away future progress, and these children’s futures, in favor of a short-term fix for industry.


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