Two Republican legislators have introduced a bill to make it easier for businesses to use child labor without sign off by parents. Assembly Bill 25 and its companion bill Senate Bill 11, introduced by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton) and Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), will completely eliminate the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) permit process currently required for children aged 16 and 17 entering the workforce. An analysis by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO says the bill “seriously weakens Wisconsin’s strong child labor laws which are in place to protect the life, health, safety and welfare of children. It undermines parental rights by eliminating the requirement for moms and dads to approve their kid’s work schedule and other workplace conditions.”
According to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO:
The current permit process helps ensure the health and safety of a child worker by requiring approval at two levels: by the parent or guardian who knows their child’s individual situation and ability to do the job, and by the DWD officer who verifies the job is safe and appropriate for children under Wisconsin child labor law. Eliminating the permit process would by-pass these important safeguards and create a direct pipeline between employers and our children.
At a public hearing for the child labor bill, the Department of Workforce Development testified that the bill is unnecessary because the permitting process does not prevent eligible minors from taking appropriate employment. The process does allow the Department to review each permit request and notify parents if there is any red flag about the job, hours, employer, etc. The motto of the process is “School First! Work Second!” The DWD can recall, revoke, or suspend a permit already issued if the job is later found to conflict with Wisconsin’s child labor law. If the child has no legal guardian, the officer can also sign off on the permit. There is a $10 permit fee that is reimbursed by the employer before the first paycheck is issued.
The permit process is an essential safeguard that lets child workers and their parent or guardian know their rights under the law and how the workplace is regulated for those under 18. It is an important protection against exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
Don’t let the legislature chip away at child labor safeguards and parental rights without hearing from you. Speak up for our children, speak up for parents, speak up for a safe, regulated workplace environment for kids.
Everyone who had a job during high school remembers how important a first job can be to teach young people responsibility and important life skills. The point is that parents should still have the right to sign off on the work permit.