Missouri Senate Considers Changing Child Labor Laws

7 years 9 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, February 17 2011 Feb 17, 2011 Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:40:00 PM CST February 17, 2011 in Continuous News
By: David Earl

JEFFERSON CITY - The sponsor of a bill that would change the state's child labor laws defended the proposal Thursday. SB 222, sponsored by state senator Jane Cunningham, a Republican from Chesterfield, is drawing national attention. A bill summary provided by the Missouri Senate says the bill would rescind "the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen," effectively making it legal for any child of any age to work. The bill summary also says SB 222 would remove restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day - and allows children to work without obtaining any kind of consent or work certificate.

On Tuesday night, Jay Leno joked on the Tonight Show, "In Missouri, Republican State Senator Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill that would eliminate her state's child labor laws...why should the 10-year-olds in China be getting all the good factory jobs?"

But Cunningham defended the legislation, arguing that children under the age of 14 who "babysit, or want a paper route or want to walk a dog, or rake leaves, or wash cars" for payment are technically in violation of the current Missouri child labor laws.

"What we're trying to do is look at archaic laws in our statutes," Cunningham said. "We are still protecting children from dangerous situations - sawmills, explosives, dangerous animals, those type of situations - and we are keeping the compulsory attendance laws that make sure children do attend school."

But one of the provisions of SB 222 is to remove the authority of the Division of Labor Standards to oversee workplaces when it comes to meetings state requirements for child labor.

"These laws are in place because there's between 50 and 60 violations in the state of Missouri of child labor today - and that's without any enforcement. The Division of Labor Standards is totally inadequately funded," Herb Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of Missouri AFL-CIO, said.

Another bill currently before the Senate, SB 102 sponsored by Senator Timothy Green, a Democrat from St. Louis, addressed child labor issues - but only summer employment. Green said his legislation would allow children between the ages of 14 and 16 to obtain work certificates for summer jobs by only needing the consent of their parents. The current legislation requires the approval of a school principal for any type of work certificate for any time of year.

Both bills have yet to be scheduled for committee hearings.

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