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Not a Good Look for Arkansas (Editorial)

2 min read

The state got some negative attention last week when Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed House Bill 1410, eliminating a work permit requirement for children under 16.

Headlines blared “Arkansas governor signs bill rolling back child labor protections” and “Arkansas Gov. Sanders signs law loosening child labor protections.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with teenagers working, as long as they’re safe, their parents approve and work doesn’t interfere with their education. Work during one’s teen years can teach the essential skills of punctuality, reliability, cooperation and hard work, “soft skills” that employers often say are lacking. 

And in a tight labor market, employers — particularly those in the hospitality sectors like restaurants — can find good workers in teenagers.

But requiring children who are 14 or 15 to provide proof of age, permission from a parent or guardian and employer details, including a job description and the signature of an owner or manager of the business, is not overly onerous. 

“We just think this is a solution looking for a problem,” Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, told Arkansas Business’ Lara Farrar.

The timing is also — how shall we say this? — unfortunate, coming as it does “against the backdrop of a $1.5 million fine the U.S. Department of Labor slapped on a slaughterhouse cleaning service that illegally employed at least 102 children in hazardous conditions in more than a dozen meat processing plants, including two in Arkansas,” Farrar reported.

Most parents do what’s right by their children, but not all. Nor do all employers do what’s right by their workers.

But HB1410 is now Act 195 of 2023, and we can only hope that no children are exploited because it was enacted.

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