Maine governor Paul LePage continued to advocate changing labor laws to allow children to work at the 73rd Maine Agricultural Trades Show Tuesday, saying the economy would benefit from bringing kids into the workplace.
“We don’t allow children to work until they’re 16, but two years later, when they’re 18, they can go to war and fight for us,” the Republican governor said at the event. “That’s causing damage to our economy. I started working far earlier than that, and it didn’t hurt me at all. There is nothing wrong with being a paperboy at 12 years old, or at a store sorting bottles at 12 years old.”
“I’m all for not allowing a 12-year-old to work 40 hours,” LePage said in a November interview with Downeast magazine. “But a 12-year-old working eight to 10 hours a week or a 14-year-old working 12 to 15 hours a week is not bad.”
Lepage, who was on the board of a Maine homeless shelter, advocates letting communities pick up the slack to prevent homelessness in youth. Allowing children to work, he says, is part of that prevention.
“I used to shovel snow, mow lawns, shine shoes,” LePage said of his own childhood, part of which was spent homeless. “I mean, man, I did more things — I made shoes, I worked in a shoe shop. I was sixteen. Nowadays they’d arrest the owner and probably lock me up.”
LePage has long advocated changing labor laws to allow children to work before the age of 16, proposing bills to create a “training” wage of $5.25 an hour for children and to alter the work permit application process. Those efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
According to the Bangor Daily News, current law requires children under 16 to apply for a work permit before applying for a job, even a summer job or work for their parents. They must be offered a job before applying and have permission from their parents and their district’s school superintendent. Most jobs in movie theaters, bakeries, hotels, garages, dry cleaners, and other venues have a legal limit of 16. The whole process can take three weeks.
LePage proposes streamlining the process with a new law that would allow teenagers to apply directly to the Department of Labor without asking their superintendent for summer jobs, and would open up work for minors in bowling alleys in movie theaters, which is allowed in most other states.