Paul LePage, Governor of Maine spoke out in an interview last November with Downeast magazine to endorse the idea of allowing children to work at the age of 12. “The problem with Maine is you cannot go to work and get a permit until you’re sixteen,” he said. It is too late. It’s like riding a bike. It’s much easier to learn to ride at eight-years-old than 16-years-old.”
“I’m all for not allowing a 12-year-old to work 40 hours,” he added. “But a 12-year-old working eight to 10 hours a week or a 14-year-old working 12 to 15 hours a week is not bad.”
Apparently this was no idle thought and the criticism leveled at him at the time also meant nothing to the governor, this week he was at it again, cheer-leading the virtues of repealing our child labor laws at the 73rd Maine Agricultural Trades Show Tuesday.
“We don’t allow children to work until they’re 16, but two years later, when they’re 18, they can go to war and fight for us,” he said at the event. “That’s causing damage to our economy. I started working far earlier than that, and it didn’t hurt me at all. There is nothing wrong with being a paperboy at 12 years old, or at a store sorting bottles at 12 years old.”
The governor’s claim is that allowing children to work will be good for the economy, although how adding more people to the labor pool will alleviate unemployment is a bit murky.
More alarming is the rest of his proposed changes to child labor restrictions is the suggestion that a new child’s minimum wage be established at $5.25 per hour. This could only exacerbate the problems facing the least skilled workers, any employer who can legally hire a child to do a simple job that anyone can do for better than two dollars an hour less, is going to do just that.
The governor’s plan seems to be geared more to the purpose of improving the bottom line for any business that can use child labor to drastically reduce costs and thereby pocket higher profits. It hardly looks like a plan to fight homelessness and poverty as he claims.
Perhaps the governor would settle for a compromise and replace the current law with the first child labor laws passed in the state back in 1847. At that time, during the Industrial Revolution, the requirements were quite lax although they were tightened by the Truancy laws passed in 1887 which required children under 15 to attend school for at least 16 weeks per year in order to earn the “privilege” of working in manufacturing and mechanical workplaces, according to the Department of Labor’s website.
This is not a way to improve the economy and it certainly does not make better adults of children who were never allowed to be children. We do not need a “child’s” minimum wage and we do not need to push children into the workforce, they will have plenty of time to “enjoy” the pleasures of working for a living and there are better ways to teach them responsibility.
h/t: Opposing Views