Saturday, February 19, 2011

Time Travel May Soon Be Possible - For Little Kids in Missouri

For most of February, I’ve been spending a lot of time making slides for my two upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) talks.  One of the talks “Sixty Hours a Week, Ten Cents an Hour: Records of New England’s Industrial Heritage” will take place on Friday afternoon and will deal with the somewhat elusive – but fascinating - records of New England workers and factory “operatives”. 

Part of my talk examines the development of child labor laws and the genealogically significant records that the late 19th and early 20th century child labor movement created, so it was with more than passing interest that I learned of what’s going on in Missouri these days.

[Full disclosure – back in my bureaucrat days, I had the grandiose title of “Commissioner of Human Resources” which meant that I got to deal with all kinds of local government labor issues on a day-to-day basis.  The plus side:  the commissioner title is “forever”: once a commissioner, always a commissioner.  As a result, my mail from official government circles still comes addressed to “The Honorable ….” And government hacks still call me “Commissioner” … kinda like they still call George Bush “President” and Sarah Palin “Governor” ]

Anyhow, to the issue at hand:

Missouri State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R- Chesterfield) has introduced a bill in the Missouri Senate that would correct what she views as long-standing, job-killing employment abuses in that state.  Apparently, the Missouri Nanny State has been legislating in critical areas that she feels are best left to parents of small children, such as when and how long those small children can work. 

After all, everybody (at least in Missouri, Sen. Cunningham hopes) knows that the free market, when left to itself, is guided by an all-knowing, invisible hand (possibly the hand of God Himself) that will bring only good to all true believers.  Parents know what’s best for their children; state interference can only mess things up.

In case you missed the memo, there are apparently folks in key legislative positions who have decided that government regulation of any kind is evil.  After all, we know that the banks, the finance industry and the oil industry can police themselves very well, thank you very much.

So, with that in mind, Sen. Cunningham introduced Senate Bill 222.  The following information comes directly from the official Missouri State Senate website, lest you think I’m making stuff up.  I repeat - It’s copied verbatim from their official website.  Here’s what Senator Cunningham hopes will happen in Missouri real soon:

SB 222 – This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed. Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.

Just think – little fourteen year old kids in Missouri can now go to work cleaning motel rooms!  Chances are, those little kids can clean in those hard-to-reach spots that those overweight illegal alien maids can’t reach, like under beds and such.  Watch out, Josefina!  

And since work permits would no longer be necessary for these children, they could work 15 or 16 hours a day!   Cunningham has been quoted as saying that having kids negotiate their own working hours will help teach them “responsibility.”

Sadly, they will still be prohibited from operating heavy equipment, like fork lifts and front end loaders.

The minimum wage in Missouri is $7.25 an hour. But wait - that’s only for businesses grossing $500,000 a year. Lots of “mom and pop” motels that might employ these young teen=aged workers don’t gross anywhere near that. 

Below that half a million dollar threshold, in retail or service businesses, there is no minimum wage; it’s whatever a worker (i.e., a 14 year old kid) will accept.  To quote directly from the Missouri Department of Labor website: Employers not subject to the minimum wage law can pay employees wages of their choosing.

Ah, yes! Yet another opportunity for small children to learn negotiating skills and "responsibility."

Wow – to think that time travel of a sort – back to the 1840s -  (at least when it comes to child labor laws) might soon be possible – just by going to Missouri.  Next, we might actually learn that Neanderthals still roam the earth!

In this day and age, who would have thought?

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