Skip to comments.Should children be allowed to work in sawmills
Posted on 03/05/2005 1:17:09 PM PST by flixxx
Should children be allowed to work in sawmills?
What if they're Amish?
Under federal law, anyone under 18 is forbidden to work in a sawmill. Well, almost anyone. Last year, Congress declared it permissible for a 14-year-old to work in a sawmill if a statute or court ruling exempts him from having to attend school past the eighth grade. That's code for "if he's Amish," and in case you don't get the message, the statute specifies that such a person must be supervised by "an adult member of the same religious sect or division."
So if an Amish parent wants to raise his children to an Amish lifestyle and send them to work in a sawmill when they finish eighth grade, he can do it. But if a child is not Amish, he is forbidden to work in almost any job until he is 14, in most jobs until he is 16, and in a considerable number of jobs until he is 18. Why? Because to "protect children," Congress and the Department of Labor have decided they know just which village it takes to raise a child: Washington, D.C. But the truth is that Washington's labor laws now hurt children more than they protect them.
They almost took away Tommy McCoy's dream. At the age of 14, while other boys and girls his age cheered from the stands, Tommy was on the field with the Savannah, Ga., Cardinals. He was the batboy.
When the feds descended on Savannah to order Tommy fired, there was enough publicity that Robert Reich, then U.S. secretary of labor, reviewed the case himself and made an exception for Tommy. According to a Harvard Business School publication, Reich's advisers warned him that he would undermine the child labor laws. "If you allow this," went the argument, "tomorrow we will see 14-year-old peanut vendors and 13-year-old parking-lot attendants; there is no shutting that door."
Would that be terrible? Granted, most kids don't dream of being parking-lot attendants, but for some children, such low-glamour jobs may be the only available routes to a dream -- the only way to pay for a computer or a guitar. For some, these jobs are where they'll develop the basic skills they'll need later for more serious jobs.
I've accompanied Labor Department cops as they barged into "sweatshops violating child labor laws." I expected to see horrors, but I never did. What the cops call "sweatshop," I call "employer." No teen ABC interviewed after the raids said he was being abused. All of them wanted the work. As the employers sullenly completed government paperwork, the teens would slip out the back door and find another illegal job. The bureaucrats didn't help kids; they only took choices away.
One young grocery bagger who lost his job because someone asked about child labor laws told us, "I was really sad because, they're not ... making us work. I mean, we wanted to do this."
The batboy was lucky because Secretary Reich, who had but newly taken command at the Labor Department, decided to use his power to make an exception to avoid looking like a fool by cracking down on batboys.
The Labor Department also gives a special exemption to child actors and farm workers and -- for some reason -- to wreath makers. Is that how American law should work? Special breaks for some, often those who lobby best? Should the right to work depend on some Washington big shot saying, "We can make an exception -- when we choose"? Why is an anonymous grocery bagger less entitled to his freedom and to his dreams than the Olsen twins?
The bureaucrats say without these laws, children will be abused. But there are millions of employers in America, and they compete for workers. That marketplace competition protects workers better than job-killing Labor Department rules. If McDonald's treats a kid badly, he can usually get a job somewhere else. In a free society, people normally take jobs because they think they're better off with them than without them. If you are forced to take a particular job, that's called slavery, and the Constitution and criminal law are on hand to address the matter.
Who is best able to figure out whether a job would benefit a particular child? The child himself, who must live with the decision? His parents, who presumably know and love him? The child and parents together? Or the government, which, unless he can get a special exception, will protect the child from following his dream?
Give Me a Break.
John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News' "20/20." To find out more about John Stossel and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Here in Vermont we have a water-powered sawmill nearby, which has been restored but is only occasionally run.
But there are several folks with portable sawmills nearby that can be hitched up behind a truck or tractor. We had some of our cedars sawed up for lumber, and I'm planning to do the same thing with some white pine and hemlock. I have a portable planer I bought to smooth the planks off. It has paid for itself in almost no time when you look at the money saved on lumber.
My son had severe reading disabilities. So instead of pushing for college, I apprenticed him to an auto mechanic at age 14. Yes, a mechanics shop is a dangerous place but I had confidence in the owner.
My son spent the first year working part time as a tool "gopher" and couldn't wait to start doing brakes and such - the first jobs he was allowed to do. He started collecting his own tools at that age too. I remember the day he came home with his first $5 tip at age 15. He was thrilled.
He sat for and passed his ASE exams at age 18. (You are not allowed to take the exam without 2 years full time experience). At 20 he is an auto technician and the main mechanic in a private shop. He LOVES what he does. He has continued his auto education, taking seminars and getting certificates.
It's probably the best thing I ever did for him. But I hate to think of what could have happened if some liberal schoolteacher had spotted him out and reported us. They could have squashed the dream, all in the name of nanny state protection.
You got that right. Hell on earth, 90 pounds at a time.
I also did some logging as a teenager. Never again.
I had to get up in the morning, at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulfuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill and pay millowner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our mum and dad would kill us and dance about on our graves, singing Hallelujah!
I never was employed in a mill, but by 14 was proficient at operating a chain saw. You are correct about the importance of being taught how to safely use a tool or machine.
Some kids are capable of handling that responsibility. OTOH, some adults never will be.
You know it.
Three cuttings a year, during summer no less.
And folks wonder why I ran like hell to the big city.
\ The worse job was stacking the bales into the hay mow always hot always dusty.
The greenies foist environmental regulations that subsidize crappy harvesting abroad while torching our own forests into weed infested landslides. Then they bitch about water quality and endangered fish!
Then I had to hike home uphill again through those now refilled 10' drifts to shovel the driveway so's my dad could drive to his cushy hospital administrators job with the chains I had to install on his corn green '53 Oldsmobile...
But even by waiting thirty minutes and taking another 10 to write this reply, I still haven't stopped laughing out loud at you excedingly honest and distraught reply!!!
Oh yes, hay bales are much worse than straw bales...and we detasseled corn in the summer too...I remember my first summer, we got $2.10 per hour and thought it was great...times have changed.
If you bought Nike sneakers, you support child labor. If you shop at Wal*mart, you support Child Labor. Corporations do not care who makes their products as long as their money keeps rolling in.
Man you had it tough, I had to throw green hay in bales that weighted over 120 lbs to the top of the hay Wagon in 105 degree heat,....that was hard.
Then I had to unload a big old dualie truck with 5 foot side boards filled with wheat into a grain bin when the auger quit working...it was 110 degrees that day,...took all day and 10 gallons of ice tea.... wore myself out going to the outhouse.
Nor do they care who buys their products. How are we able to do that with no one having a job? Are you one of the lucky ones with a job? Do you work for a corporation? Do you use anything made by corporations? Can you get from one place to the next without corporations? Most corporations are excellent corporate and patriotic citizens. You can't do without them so why slam them?
Buncha lazy, largely illegitimate smart/dumb a$$ trustfund babies!!! May a nest of sea hornets swarm their crotches on that there boatload of pantload babies!!!
"Three cuttings a year, during summer no less.
And folks wonder why I ran like hell to the big city."
You know it. My boss was about 60 and worked my teenage ass into the ground. August in eastern Washington - in the top of a metal barn - bails of wet peas... But at $3.00/hr I was making more than any of my buddies.
Child labor isn't all that bad.
The kids stay off the street and make their own cash to spend.
A child spending his/her own cash has more respect for the item they purchase than one spending Ma and Pa's money.
"If a young man or woman works to buy something they want a car etc.
They will drive the car with care because they do not want to hot rod it or wreck it because it is their responsibility."
I went to work plastering for my father when I was 14 so I would have a "car" on the day I turned 16. I knew it was against the law and just kept my mouth shut.
I spent the 2 years building y 40 Ford with a 3/8s x 3/8s flat head and had it ready for the day. I street raced nightly and 2 years later replaced the flathead with a big olds overhead and was going 129 in the quarter in 1953 which was pretty quick for a street coupe in those days.
I already had racing in my blood since I first drove a rail at Santa Ana when I was 12.
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