By Senator Howard Marklein
October 6, 2017
Let Children Learn From Their Parents
I grew up on a dairy farm. From a very young age, I milked right alongside my dad. As I grew, I took on more responsibility and learned how to do new things. I was a part of our family business and knew the value and satisfaction of hard work. I credit these experiences for my strong work ethic and lifelong drive to do my best every day.
When I heard about the Eberle family who owns the Mixing Bowl Bakery in Sauk City, I knew I needed to take action. Last year, a customer from the bakery filed a complaint with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) because several of the Eberle’s nine children were working in the bakery. The kids were clearing dishes, washing tables, making change and other small tasks. Curtis and Vicki Eberle were investigated and told that their children could not work at the bakery without a work permit. Since most of the kids are fairly young, they do not qualify for a work permit. Thus, none of the Eberle’s children are allowed to help at the bakery anymore.
I decided to author Senate Bill (SB) 420 to allow a minor to be employed without a child labor permit if they are working at a business owned by their parents, guardians or grandparents. Current child work permit exemptions already exist for agricultural work, domestic employment, work in or around a private home (such as babysitting or yard work), volunteer work for a non-profit agency and work through the Youth Apprenticeship Program. Similarly, Federal law also exempts children of any age from child labor minimum age requirements if they are employed in a family business, with some exceptions for hazardous occupations.
Some of the best lessons a child can learn take place when they are working alongside their parents. Farm-kids are some of the hardest workers with the best work ethic in our state. I learned many skills on our family farm: responsibility, problem solving, etc. Under current law, a minor does not need a work permit to work on the family farm. A family-business should be treated the same.
Curtis Eberle joined me to testify before the Senate Committee on Labor & Regulatory Reform on Wednesday, October 4, 2017. “Our oldest son has a great work ethic now because he started helping out at the bakery when he was young,” Eberle said. “He will be 12 in December. Had we waited to teach these lessons, we would have lost valuable time for learning.”
“When our children helped in the bakery, they wore hair nets, gloves and aprons. They washed their hands,” Eberle said. “We still have standards and we must follow the laws to maintain our license.”
It is important to note that all other minor employment protections would remain in place. Current law protects children by prohibiting them to be employed in any place that is dangerous to their health, safety, or welfare or where the employment may be dangerous. There are also additional protections and limitations on what hours minors can work.
Small, family-owned businesses are an important part of our economy and of our culture as Americans. The knowledge passed down through families through hard work should not be impeded by government regulations. I trust parents to make good choices for their kids.
As drafted, the bill would only eliminate the work permit requirement for minors ages 12-16 that work at a family business. I plan on introducing an amendment so that there would be no age minimum for children to help their family’s private businesses. This would align our statutes similarly to agriculture and federal law.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.