Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post reports that House Republicans in Maine have proposed legislation to loosen protective child labor laws. The proposed bill, LD 1346, would reduce the minimum wage for anyone under the age of 20 from $7.20 per hour to $5.25 per hour for the first 180 days of work while, for students, the law “eliminates the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows a minor under the age of 16 to work up to four hours on a school day.” Essentially, Republicans are looking to reduce teens to a large pool of low-wage labor.
For students who need to make money, the law is a trap. If you’re making less money per hour, you would now have to work more hours to make the same amount of money. Moreover, those criticizing the bill say it could lead to “15-hour days for students who should be prioritizing education,” which could have serious ramifications for students. In 2009, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 71 percent of college dropouts cited work as a primary reason for leaving school; just last month, researchers studying high school students found that working over 20 hours per week can lead to both academic and behavioral problems. Obviously, there is a state interest in encouraging young people to focus on school, for the long-term benefit of both the students and society.
It’s hard to understand the utility of LD 1346, which is bad for young people who should be in school and bad for a labor force who must compete with a new pool of workers who would work for $2 less. But this is the kind of society that the Tea Party wants to live in. Where labor is cheap and corporate profits are high. And where the government doesn't intervene, even to improve the fortunes of children.