The state Legislature has passed a bill eliminating requirements that 16- and 17-year-olds get parental permission to work, and Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign it into law.
Under existing law, a child must pay $10 and provide a parent’s written consent to obtain a work permit.
The state’s Republican majority says removing the permit requirement will make it easier for children without parents to work. Democrats maintain the bill would allow children to make important life decisions that could adversely affect their educations — against their parents’ wishes.
Grocers and other members of the corporate sector that employ teens have been pushing for the change.
Wisconsin State Senator LaTonya Johnson, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations, blasted the new law as “dangerous.”
“With passage of this legislation, Wisconsin Republicans are limiting the ability of parents of 16- and 17-0year-old children to fully protect the life, health, safety, and welfare of their kids,” she said in a press statement. “This legislation effectively prioritizes cheap child labor over parental oversight and positive outcomes for our youth.”
This is not the first time that Wisconsin Republicans have relaxed child labor laws. In 2011, they revised the state’s laws to expand the number of hours and days of the week that 16- and 17-year-olds could work. The Child Labor Coalition said that change allowed employers to leverage cheap child labor to avoid paying a living wage.
“Research suggests that when teens work more than 20 hours a week, their grades go down, they drop out of school more often, and they have more behavioral issues,” said coalition coordinator Reid Maki of the 2011 law. “By allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work unlimited hours during the school week, Wisconsin legislators are failing Wisconsin teens … the legislators who did this should be ashamed.”
Prior to 2011 minors in Wisconsin could not work more than 32 hours on partial school weeks, 26 hours during full school weeks and no more than 50 hours during school breaks.