The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors released a statement Oct. 26 calling for Governor Tony Evers to veto Senate Bill 332, which would extend the hours children under 16 are able to work.
Under current state law, children ages 14 and 15 are prohibited from working past 9 p.m. during the summer months and 7 p.m. during the school year. This bill would allow this age group to work until 9:30 p.m. on school nights and 11:00 p.m. otherwise.
But according to NBC26, the bill will not change the current federal regulations that limit teenage employees to three hours of work on a school day, eight hours on non-school days and six total days of work per seven-day week period.
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, a worker’s rights group, President Stephanie Bloomingdale said the state has protected working children’s rights for 150 years through various pieces of legislation. She said protection should be not be denied to children now.
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“The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO opposes Senate Bill 332 as it continues the slippery slope of eliminating child labor protections,” Bloomingdale said in a statement. “The reality is that this bill would likely affect few children; however, if this bill affects one child – that is one child too many.”
In the statement, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors said Republican authors of the bill claimed the legislation will help address the labor shortages in the state, even though the bill only applies to workers who are not covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This allows small employers to schedule more hours for teens under 16 years old.
During the Senate public hearing, State Senator Robert Wirch (D-Somers) said, “Kids should be doing their homework, being in school instead of working more hours. There’s going to be curfew violations if [employers] follow this bill, working until 11 o’clock. I think it sends us in the wrong direction.”
Wirch was the only lawmaker to speak on behalf of either side of the legislation during the hearing, according to a video of the hearing sent by his office.
This bill would apply to businesses with annual revenue less than $500,000 and those that do not engage in interstate commerce, according to the Wisconsin Examiner. Five groups registered in support with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission with two opposing.
During the June 16 Senate hearing, Wisconsin Restaurant Association President Kristine Hillmer testified in favor of the bill, while also noting very few businesses have employees who are not under federal labor law requirements. Hillmer proposed several changes to the bill but they were not adopted.
The bill passed Oct. 20 in the Wisconsin State Senate. It will head to the Wisconsin State Assembly as soon as next week.