Maine’s Child Labor Laws Come Under Scrutiny

by Rob Poindexter

Augusta – Hearings began in Augusta Friday on a bill that would weaken some of Maine’s child labor laws.

Representative David Burns of Whiting is the sponsor of the legislation. It calls for limiting minimum wage for high school students to $5.25 per hour for their first six months on the job. It also would let high schoolers work more than the 20 hours per week they’re currently restricted to during the school year.

Opponents say if the bill passes it would open the door for employers to take advantage of the student workers. “This is nothing more than a shortsighted effort by certain employers to hire more of Maine’s teens for lower wages, for longer hours, later at night, during the school year,” said Sarah Standiford of the Maine’s Women’s Lobby. 

Representative Burns says it gives the students more access to jobs and would help instill a good work ethic. He says the amount a student is allowed to work is should not be up to lawmakers. “That’s a family decision as to what’s too much or too little,” says Representative Burns. “Whether it pertains to that or pertains to sitting around playing video games or sports activity or extracurricular activity that’s a family decision and that’s not for me to say as the state.”

Another bill taken up in Augusta Friday would relax regulations put in place on farm workers.

It calls for the repeal of a law passes 15 years ago after a farm in Turner was accused of labor violations.

Supporters of the repeal say those type of violations are a thing of the past and the law is no longer needed. Opponents worry that it would open the door to unfair labor practices.