After the Heroin epidemic it is possible that human trafficking is the the fast growing societal scourge with which Wisconsin law enforcement is grappling. A close third might be teen homelessness, which fuels the human trafficking problem. In an effort to address the human trafficking and homelessness issues, State Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clint0n), and State Senator Chris Kapenga, (R-Delafield) have introduced legislation aimed at improving access to employment and other daily living supports for unaccompanied and homeless youth. From Loudenbeck’s website:
Unaccompanied and homeless youth are vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse. Providing these young people with an opportunity for legal, gainful employment so they can complete their education and become self-supporting adults will reduce their risk for negative outcomes.
Under current law, a minor must obtain a work permit prior to employment. The process of obtaining a work permit includes providing a signed letter or letters from the employer and the parent or guardian. This obviously creates a significant challenge for unaccompanied and homeless teens seeking a way to legally earn extra money to pay for personal and living expenses.
LRB 0094/1 will remove one of the barriers to employment that unaccompanied and homeless teens face by lowering the age requirement for a work permit to under 16 years of age. Eliminating the work permit requirement for 16 and 17 year olds will eliminate an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. All current state and federal laws related to hours and times of day a minor may work, and restricted or prohibited employment for minors are not being changed.
Despite that straightforward description of the bill’s intent, it apparently was lost on Matthew Brusky, blogging for the radical leftist group “Citizen Action Wisconsin.” Brusky deviated from attacking a Welfare reform proposal unveiled Monday by Governor Scott Walker to present a complete distortion of the Loudenbeck/Kapenga bill:
While this plan is wrongheaded and will only decrease opportunity for Wisconsin’s children and families, it pales into comparison to a proposed GOP bill (LRB 0094/1) being circulated in the legislature by GOP Rep. Amy Loudenbeck to legalize child labor for all children 16 years and older. Most shamefully the legislation attempts to legalize child labor for all children 16 and older under the thin guise of helping homeless children find work. 19th century here we come!
Contrary to the blatantly false claim by Brusky, employment for minors 16 and 17 years old is already legal. The bill simply removes the work permit requirement for that age group and keeps all other requirements in place. As Loudenbeck points out, removing the red tape that comes with this requirement will make it easier for vulnerable homeless teens to become employed.
And minors under 16 can already obtain work permits and that portion of the law remains virtually unchanged under the proposed revision:
a minor under 16 years of age may not be employed or permitted to work at any gainful occupation or employment, unless 12 years and over and engaged in farming, unless 14 years and over and enrolled in a youth apprenticeship program under s. 106.13, or unless there is first obtained from the department or a permit officer a written permit authorizing the employment of the minor within those periods of time stated in the permit, which may not exceed the maximum hours prescribed by law.
As for Brusky’s claim that the aim of helping homeless children find work is a “thin guise,” this bill isn’t Loudenbeck’s first attempt to address the human trafficking issue.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.