At an event in Lewiston, ME last night, the state’s tea party governor Paul LePage (R) told a crowd of French-Canadian-Americans that when he was 12 years old, he used to hide out in the French-Canadian part of town and steal Halloween candy from children. “Isn’t that awful? And now I’m governor of Maine,” LePage said with a laugh.
But now that LePage is governor, he’s still targeting children. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Debra Plowman (R) and “backed by” LePage would roll back the state’s child labor laws, with the pretext of giving kids more liberty to work. “We have no other restrictions on any other things they do,” Plowman explained. “They can watch TV 32 hours-a-week.”
Her original bill would have removed all protections on the number of hours 16 and 17 year olds could work during the school week, and allow them to work until 11 PM. Maine’s current child labor law — which allows only 20 hours per week during the school year — was passed with bipartisan consensus because educators warned that their students were falling asleep in class due to long work hours and their grades were suffering. But industry groups that employ teens want more:
The bill, filed by Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, was supported by industry groups including the Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Innkeepers Association during a public hearing Wednesday in front of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. [...]
[The Restaurant Association's Dick] Grotton said Maine’s law “penalized” employers.
In response to opposition from labor and education groups, Plowman revised her bill to cap hours at 32 per week, but as Sarah Standiford, the executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, told ThinkProgress, “there’s really clear data” that when students work “beyond 20 hours a week, the impact [on their education] is clearly detrimental.” “Everybody says this is for the kids,” state Rep. Paul Gilbert (D) said during a committee hearing last week, “but I don’t see any kids.” “When you’re a teen, you’re not in a position to try to contradict or try to stand up to work hour requests from an employer,” Standiford said, noting that employers often pressure teenagers to work longer hours.
Indeed, as in Wisconsin and Ohio, LePage’s effort is part of a much bigger campaign to undo laws that protect workers’ rights. “There are more rollbacks than we can count,” Standiford said.