Exploiting children

I remember working my high school job at a grocery store. As I recall, I could only work 4 hours and until 9 p.m. on school nights when I started. I soon turned 18 and was able to work longer and later. And that I did. I soon took on the role of supervisor, something that unfortunately translated to working until close – 11 p.m. I remember just how rough it was getting up in the morning for school. I had to be there by 7:15 a.m., so I was up by 6:50 a.m. at the latest. That is, if I even went to school. In my Senior year I skipped like crazy; in just one quarter I missed 11 days. My grades didn’t suffer (as I recall, I had a 94 average that particular quarter), but I was also fortunate in going to a school that granted Junior/Senior privileges. Depending on the week, I either had 2 or 3 days in which I could go home and sleep from about 11 to 1.

But that isn’t the case for everyone. First, not every school has the system mine did. Second, many students are going to struggle to do moderately well, much less achieve privileges (if their school even has them). Allowing kids to work that awful schedule I dumbly undertook in high school is an obvious mistake that will negatively impact education. Well, it’s obvious unless you’re a member of the Maine GOP:

Rep. Burns, who did not respond to an interview request Tuesday, apparently thinks Maine’s kids are not only underworked, but also overpaid.

And how would Burns correct this, ahem, problem?

Well, he’d remove any limit whatsoever on the number of hours kids over 16 can work on a school day — the current limit is four on most days and eight on the last school day of the week.

He’d raise from three to four the maximum hours kids under 16 can work on a school day.

And finally — listen up, kids — he’d whack the pay for any high school student under the age of 20 from Maine’s $7.50-per-hour minimum wage to a “training wage” of $5.25-per-hour for the first 180 days on the job.

This has to be the worst idea I have heard from Republicans since we invaded Iraq. Kids don’t need to be working late nights while trying to juggle school and their social lives. It sucked for me under relatively fortunate circumstances; it will suck just as much, if not more, for everyone else.

Co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Bickford had this to say:

“I would support removing the cap for daily and weekly hours, but I would also support amending it to six hours when school is in session, so the student could get home from school — say 3:00 — and could work from 4:00-9:00. They’d still have plenty of time for homework,” Bickford added. “Most of these kids are generally up well past 10:00. They could work a 3:00-9:00 shift.”

So let’s just keep them up later. Hell, I used to stay up until 12:30 a.m. quite often. How about we let kids work until midnight? Or, hell, let’s allow them to do overnights. They can go to work at 11:00 p.m., work an 8 hour shift, get to school at 7 the next morning, sleep from about 2:30-10:30 p.m., then head back to work. It’ll be a real resume builder.

Aside from being an education-second bill, the whole point of this legislation is to cheapen up labor for Maine’s tourist industry. Anyone who has ever been to the Maine coast in the summer knows that teenagers get hired all over the place – and for less than 180 days. Burns and Bickford want to allow businesses to pay teenagers less money for the same work that those over 20 are doing. It’s horseshit. It’s unfair, without a good or reasonable basis, and it will have negative ramifications on the educations of working teens.

But hey, how about some science?

Citing no fewer than eight published studies, [Maine Women’s Lobby direction Laura] Harper said the data consistently show that holding down a job while in high school is actually a good thing for most kids — up to a point:

One study, appearing in the “American Educational Research Journal,” found that kids who work between one and 15 hours per week are actually more likely to complete high school. Pass the 15-hour mark, however, and the dropout rate starts to rise.

Ditto for another study in “Sociology of Education” that found “intensive work involvement” of more than 20 hours a week leads to higher numbers of kids giving up on school.

Then there’s the “Journal of Educational Research” study that found a direct correlation between hours worked and academic performance — the more the hours go up, the more grades and standardized test scores go down.

Meanwhile, as Harper noted in a recent letter to the committee, “no evidence presented suggests that there is an unskilled labor shortage in this state.”

19 Responses

  1. well, as long as business can squeeze an extra dollar of profit, then that is all that matters. This is the Republican dogma and mantra – fuck everyone so that business can earn more.

  2. “it will have negative ramifications to the educations of working teens.”

    on* the educations?

    I haven’t been sleeping well so I might not be reading properly, but I know when I write, I get pissed when I find little things like that later on.

  3. That sentence went through several revisions. Apparently it needed one more.

  4. There is a lot of science on this issue – it’s the distortionary effects of the minimum wage that strongly suggests teenagers suffer because if a teen only has skills that can justify $6 an hour of wages, then a minimum wage of $7.50 says it is illegal to hire him.

    This is a well understood principle. The only serious challenge to it was the Card and Krueger telephone survey in the 1990s. When you put a minimum price on something – including labor – you will block some of it from entering the market.

    Keep in mind this only works for 6 months. You may stick to your guns and not believe the outcomes economic science predicts – the idea that this is for the benefit of teens with low skills and no experience. But you should understand that’s what the motivation is here. The amount of money these corporations will save is minimal.

    Say a student works 16 hours a week – a busy schedule for someone under 18 – and the employer pays that bare minimum possible. That will save the employer $864 and not a penny more. It’s not that the worker will be paid $864 that you should worry about – it’s that the worker will be working at all.

  5. Well, they’ve been doing their best to roll back environmental standards, pollution controls, unions, worker safety, pensions, and health benefits… why should child labor be the one sticking point where Republicans actually pretend to care about labor?

  6. I doubt there are many minimum wage jobs which cannot be adequately performed by a teenager.

    But you should understand that’s what the motivation is here

    …haha. The motivation is to exploit teenagers because, well, we can. That will save thousands and thousands of dollars for the Maine tourist industry – ya know, that industry that already hires teenagers.

  7. I don’t think you’ve fully stepped into the mindset of your opponents here. Most teenagers did not rise to the supervisor level you did while in school. Here are the two major results of imposing a minimum wage:

    A) Some workers make more money an hour
    B) Some potential workers are blocked from work.

    That is the reality of the situation, like it or not. Like I said before, While teenagers in general can find work, specific teenagers can not.

    Companies look at previous experience to judge the reliability of a potential worker. I was lucky that I had a family farm and my father’s store to work at before I was 17 and found work. Other people aren’t so lucky.

    if you want to disagree with this well-entrenched understanding of minimum wages, than Card and Krueger is your best study and I encourage you to look into it. Without it, you’re tilting at windmills

  8. to clarify, I was fortunate to have work experience at family-linked jobs so when I was 17 I was able to land a supermarket job for $6 hour ($7.65 in modern dollars)

  9. I have no doubt cheap child labor would get used were it available. We could also drop minimum wage down to $2.50 and we’d slash the unemployment rate by maybe three quarters. But economics often need to be trumped by basic human decency.

  10. You are assuming an infinite labor pool, as firms must use compensation to compete with one another to attract workers. That’s why such a dismal amount of workers are on minimum wage – less than a million in the entire country, according to BLS.

    Human decency is central to economics – there is no point in organizing a system of exchanges if all the participants are hollow wraiths. That’s exactly why I support this bill. It would give teens the right to sell their labor at whatever price they can get.

  11. I’d be more in support of it if the state could somehow allow adults the same permissiveness in the sale of their labor.

    But of course the federal government is quite sure that they know better than lower echelons.

  12. Or they would just make about a thousand bucks less during their summers because every lobster shop is paying peanuts.

  13. That’s just silly! No one would accept peanuts as pay!

    Elephants perhaps… But I’ve never actually seen one eat a peanut.

  14. That’s exactly why I support this bill. It would give teens the right to sell their labor at whatever price they can get.

    You just have to love how people will justify exploitation with the cognitive dissonance that is “for their own best interest”. This is how th Auto de fe was defended. Hilarious!

  15. You have to love how people will justify minimum wage by saying business would screw people. You forget that sometimes minimum wage screws people to and that it inflates the cost of labor and thus the cost of the resulting product or service… so so too the cost of living.

    I know Bob, the government has peoples best interests in mind, we is just too stupids to be makin’ any choices are selves!

  16. Nate, you have the Nast habit of putting words in my mouth. Cut it out. It is disgusting.

  17. If you don’t open your mount, no one will be able to put words in there.

  18. Or you could be a man and own up to your disgusting behavior, asswipe.

  19. I’d much rather be snarky when I have no behavior to own up to.

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