Maine pushes ahead to ensure children have the right to work
The sponsor of a new child labor bill says employers should have the flexibility to pay workers under age 20 a “training wage.”
Opponents countered that the proposal devalues young workers and takes money out of the hands of laborers and gives it to business.
LD 1346 suggests several significant changes to Maine’s child labor law, most notably a 180-day period during which workers under age 20 would earn $5.25 an hour.
The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.
Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, is sponsoring the bill, which also would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.
Burns said the bill empowers both employers and employees and that employers would have more opportunities to hire minors.
“An employer’s got to have employees, so they can decide what they want to pay,” Burns said. “The student wants to have a job, and they can decide what they’re willing to work for.”
But Democrats and labor advocates have blasted the proposal. The bill also has caught the attention of the Maine Democratic Party, which was quick to link the bill to Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to remove a mural depicting child millworkers and other moments in Maine history from the Department of Labor.
“It’s just too perfect after the flap with the mural,” party chairman Ben Grant said. “First, the governor tries to whitewash history and now this bill is trying to erase the progress of child labor laws itself.”