Curbing Child Labor Laws To Get Around Paying Employees Better Wages

Last year, the Braums restaurant and market in nearby Tahlequah, Okla. went up in flames. It has since been renovated and reopened. I noticed about a month or so before the fire happened in late April of 2022 there were advertising for employment. They listed that people who were still in high school or under a certain age would be paid less than the normal wages of older employees.

I’m not saying that someone started the fire over the way management chose to discriminate the pay, but I can understand someone starting a fire if they felt they were underpaid. Again, I’m not saying that happened. I don’t even know what the cause was. I don’t even think authorities know. It was an older building that’s been around for a few decades. Some rodents chewed on some wires. Who knows?

However, as the Great Resignation seems to losing some attention, many states are passing legislation to curb child labor laws. In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed legislation that allows companies and business to hire people who are 14-15. And if a picture told a thousand words, the blank dismal look of the children in the photo tells the whole story. Adults are happy. Kids are not.

Why wouldn’t the adults be happy? They can now employ children as young as 14 to do work. And parents can now demand their kids get jobs as young as 14. Supporters say the law won’t change restrictions and guidelines currently in place but it will make it easy for employers to get around hurdles like verifying ages and employees not having to get a permit if they are under 16.

But, let’s be honest. What 14-year-old wants to go work at Wal-Mart? What 14-year-old wants to work at McDonald’s? This is for employers to hire younger people so they can pay them less and more importantly, boss them around easier. You can put more pressure on a 14-year-old to do more than a 19-year-old. And this is where a lot of employers will probably circumnavigate safety precautions and other issues.

The problem is people don’t stay 14 or 15 forever. I anticipate a lot of employers are hoping to hire teenagers so they can pay them less, get them to do as much work as they can and then cut them lose whenever they get older and expect a raise. “Sorry, junior, we’re going to have to let you go. Cutbacks!” While it may not work as well as some employers will hope, I anticipate many will exploit it the best way they can.

Other states are looking to do similar things. According to the Department of Labor, child labor violations have risen by 37 percent in recent years. Six states (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota) are wanting to follow Arkansas’ path and it’s already been enacted in New Hampshire and New Jersey. A measure was vetoed by the governor in Wisconsin. This should bring more caution to the rest of the country. If a fifth of the country is wanting to put middle-and-high school students in jobs that could be more dangerous, look for more states to push it.

I don’t think we’ll go back to the child workforce that was around in the early 20th Century when children were legally obligated to work. Many states, such as Arkansas, still say that education is the priority, but we’re talking about Arkansas which is ranked in the bottom fifth. And while many younger teachers are telling school boards to “Take this job and shove it” as they’re being more pressured by conservative legislators and religious parents to teach a different curriculum, who knows what will happen. Education in America needs an overhaul but not that way.

Sadly, the only people who will take these jobs will do so out of desperation. I don’t see many 15-year-olds from affluent neighborhoods and homes wanting to work very dangerous jobs. It will be for families who have had problems. And if a 15-year-old’s paycheck is helping keep the lights and heat on, it will be harder for them to leave if they are being forced to do more dangerous work.

And some employers don’t see it as dangerous work, but just something quickly that needs to be done. Take what I recently posted about the Lowe’s employee using a ballymore lift that almost resulting in something bad happening. Managers and supervisors seem to think younger employers should do more strenuous work even though it can still be dangerous.

I was 16 when I worked a summer job at K-Mart and some of the youth would cruise around the shopping center parking lot. When I had to go collect shopping carts, some of the motorists thought it would be fun to try to ram me. When I moved the following summer to the garden center, a lot of Karens thought that they could boss me around as I tried to load 40-pound bags of potting soil or mulch into their vehicles. I developed back problems that I have now.

While employers are only allowed to work teens a certain amount of hours each week, they don’t have to provide insurance. So, we’re going to have a lot more younger generations with orthopedic problems. Look at what they’re saying about Amazon warehouse employees. It’s typical of Republicans and legislators in general to come up with temporary/easy fix solutions to more pressing issues.

It would make a lot more sense to raise the minimum wage and force employers to pay more. That way, you’d get more skilled employees. The problem is many legislators are worried about their own finances. They can’t encourage something and then not practice it. How many undocumented immigrants do you think do work for legislators (Democrats and Republicans) for cheaper wages while they rally against them in public?

This country enslaved people for hundreds of years forcing them to do back-breaking labor and if anyone complained, they could kill them or beat them senseless so no one else would say anything. (And black and brown-skinned people became lazy once we had to pay them a decent wage.) It’s the notion that we’ve sold people on the fact they can be rich and run their own business one day that many are afraid to accept the reality it won’t ever happen. You have to pay people to work. You have to pay people a decent wage. Otherwise, you’re going to get a lot of problems.

A woman on TikTok says her mother runs a landscaping business but only pays $12 an hour. However, she can’t keep work. If you’re going to pay people $12 an hour to work landscaping, you get what you pay for. Also, you can expect all young people to want to do the work. That’s another reason these emplopyers can’t find work. They’re thinking young entry-level jobs should pay peanuts. Yet, most entry-level jobs are demanding a college degree plus experience. That’s like trying to find a prostitute in a monastery.

If you treat entry-level people bad, they’re just going to use the experience to find a better job. I heard a fire chief of a nearby town say they can’t keep many firefighters on duty long. He says the city doesn’t pay them a huge wage and most can go to nearby Muskogee or Tulsa area fire departments to get better paying job. He said they’re doing nothing more than pay for their training with other departments. And he’s right.

But a lot of people don’t see this. They can’t pay more. And in a position like a firefighter, you have to pay more to keep people on duty. And to be a firefighter takes a lot of training and certification. I tried to explain to someone I’ve known since we were kids who is a firefighter why Burger King is paying more and tell him his beef shouldn’t be with Burger King but the county for not paying them more and the response is the same. “Well, call Burger King next time there is a fire,” they scoff.

It’s like trying to explain a Jackson Pollock to someone who lived on a deserted island their whole life who’s blind-deaf-mute who’s never seen colors. We’ve degraded the concept of working in fast food so much that people aren’t doing it, so they’re paying more to keep people on staff longer. They sure as hell can’t pay less. The last thing they need is someone who doesn’t care about properly handling food. Remember that poor Subway worker who was so sick her manager wouldn’t let her leave. And she was handling food. Thankfully, no one got food poisoning.

Another factor people don’t realize is that Burger King and other fast foods are private companies. They can pay more than an agency with a set wage. Most fire departments are controlled by a municipality or county government so they’re the ones cheating these firefighters out of more of a better wage. And if they could hire teenagers for less, they would.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they wouldn’t do it through an apprenticeship with the schools. Who needs firefighters who are trained in first aid and certified EMTs when you can get a high school sophomore who’s big and strong, right? No insurance should be paid. They still live with mommy and daddy that’s their responsibility. At the same time, they can go into a burning building to recover a person. They’re young. They’ll survive. And then, after a 15-year-old firefighter dies in a building fire, they’ll be changes. Unfortuantely, it takes a death.

Like I said, people don’t stay teenagers forever. And while past generations have felt that subsequent generatons should suffer more, that’s not a consensus that exists with Gen Zers and especially Millennials and Gen Xers. I’m 44 now and I don’t think anyone should have be doing what I did for $5 an hour. And now that I suffer from back problem, I definitely don’t think others should hurt as much as I did. Just because I had supervisors who were sadistic dickholes doesn’t mean they have to endure it.

And let’s be honest, many Boomers and Xers who still have that ideology wouldn’t roll up their sleeves and do the work for the lower wage and they know it. Also, no one should do business with a company that wants to exploit child labor. If they can’t pay someon who’s 14 what you would pay a 44-year-old in the same position, then they don’t derserve the business.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: