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Eliminate Job Permits For Wisconsin Teens [Up Against the Wall]

Job Permits

The Republicans in the legislature are coming around and proactively proposing legislation to a) reduce government bureaucracy and regulation, b) cut funding for government, and c) put the liberals on the defensive. The bill to remove the requirement for teen work permits is right on target on all three points.

The law currently requires that a teenager seek and secure a work permit from state
government in order to hold a part-time job. The Crap Times had a great article on this issue – trying to give cover for the left’s totally inane and unreasonable position on this.
As the law stands now if a teen (age 17 or less) wants to work at Culver’s or any other fast
food restaurant, they have to secure a work permit, but an 18-year-old in high school does not.

It just so happens that I was in exactly this situation, having been held back in first grade due to a medical issue and surgery (when I spent 3.5 months in the hospital). That put me in high school as an 18-year-old senior (and yes, in the same driver’s ed class with comedian extraordinaire Chris Farley who kept crashing his computer-simulated car into everything on purpose), which meant I could work without securing a permit, but my high school classmates (who were 17) could not.

Worse yet, the law requires a kid to obtain the school’s permission to work! (Since when do we require a third party to sign off on someone’s right to work?) Ridiculous.

We don’t require a work permit for children of a farm family working in dangerous jobs on the family farm to get a permit, even though they may be working hours in the morning before school even starts and then again for hours after school. We don’t require a work permit for volunteering for a job without pay – such as when I was on the ski patrol at Devil’s Head Resort as a teen – patrolling late at night until 11 pm and not getting to bed until 1 am. (Sometimes, well, ok, every time I’d fall asleep in honors calculus class the next day, the teacher would throw the eraser at me to wake me up. I finally figured out that wearing the chalk mark around school was an act of pride!)

Second, the state admits there are only a few tens of thousands of kids securing these permits, which means either many tens of thousands are working illegally or not at all. The number of permits issued is roughly equal to the number of kids in the Madison School District alone, which means we’re turning thousands of teens and employers around Wisconsin into criminals with this law.

Third, the state is complaining about the loss of funding! A $6 Billion surplus and the state
complains about the potential loss of a $10 fee, so apparently the loss of less than $200,000 is going to create a financial hardship for the state! Wow. Whenever we let the government use the argument that it ‘needs’ our money, we’re in serious trouble.

I agree that the work permit requirement should be revoked. We don’t need another layer of regulation or bureaucracy making it difficult for teens to get jobs. The law is particularly hard on and discriminatory against blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, requiring they pay money they don’t have (before they even have a job to earn some money) to the state government! Talk about a racist law. If Evers vetoes this one, well, then you know he stands on trying to help minority kids succeed. These jobs are critical to minority kids who help support their families.

Those kids turn out to be some of the best workers when they become adults because they
develop life skills early in life. But the left doesn’t want kids to work jobs; they want them to grow up without a work ethic, without those life skills, without learning how to manage money or save for college, so they are naive about taking on enormous debt so that the academic class can get rich off them.

We should be encouraging teens to hold jobs, get real-world experience, build a work ethic, and learn to feel good about themselves when they achieve goals and complete tasks in their jobs. Most of these jobs are at restaurants or retail stores and are not dangerous at all, so that lame excuse shouldn’t keep this law around. Is the state worried they may break a nail while scooping ice cream?

The law doesn’t apparently (or didn’t) cover child newspaper carriers since the clever newspapers set up the system so that kids independent agents. Yep, when I was delivering
leftist (err, I mean, the WSJ and Crap Times) papers when I was 11 to 14 years old before the sun came up in the morning, in 20º below zero weather in January, uphill, both ways, I didn’t need a work permit, but my friends who worked a few hours in the afternoon at a fast food joint did.

I worked from age 11 on, and at age 15 I started working in a bike store, Haack’s Cycle
(remember that place?). Then at 16, I worked at Petri’s Sports for 3 years. I was working 20 to 25 hours a week, in the afternoons, on weekends, and yes, until 9 pm at night – apparently in violation of the law since the law says 7 pm is the limit. And I needed a permit. And on top of that, I was volunteering as a ski patroller – every Saturday plus one weekend night every week in winter.

Meanwhile, my classmates who were banging their heads together on the football team, getting concussions, and putting in just as many hours each week, didn’t require a permit. So, work for free for the sports team for your local school in one of the most dangerous ‘jobs’ you can have; no permit required. Work a real job at a no-risk job in a restaurant earning a living to help support your family; you need a permit and the school’s permission! Likewise, if you started an I.T. consulting business in high school like I did, you wouldn’t need a permit because you worked for yourself – even if you put in long hours. In other words, none of this makes sense.

The current law is really about collecting more revenue for the state on the backs of minorities whom this law most negatively impacts, and it’s about trying to prevent teens from working and becoming independent of the state. It’s about throwing up another roadblock to their success. Let’s eliminate the law. Let’s put it in front of Evers to sign – because I know he doesn’t want to hurt minorities in particular, so he’ll likely sign it.

T. Wall holds a degree from the UW in economics and an M.S. in real estate analysis and valuation and is a real estate developer. Disclaimer: The opinions of the writer are not necessarily those of this publication or the left!

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