The Missouri Senate approved a measure last week that would exempt certain children from some federal work and labor restrictions.
Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, would excuse children younger than 16 from certain child labor requirements if they are performing the work on their family farm or the family farms of others with parental consent. It was passed unanimously in the Senate on Feb. 25 and must pass through the House of Representatives before being signed into law.
"Last year the federal Department of Labor wanted to put restrictions on kids working on the farm — our children working on our own farms, even," Munzlinger said. "It raised such an uproar in the rural areas that there was a huge backlash. When I checked into Missouri we had no exemptions here in Missouri either for our farm kids, so that's why I worked with the Department of Labor and the governor's office to come up with this language."
Currently, children wishing to work in the state must meet certain requirements, including the obtaining of a work certificate and a limit on hours and days of labor. They also are prohibited from hazardous jobs such as operating power-driven machinery, operating vehicles, climbing ladders and working with certain chemicals.
Under SB16, children would be able to perform all of those duties without facing restrictions from federal labor laws.
Munzlinger said the provision strictly pertains to family-owned farms in the state, and stretches to cover children working on other family farms, "as long as their parents know what they're doing and they've approved it."
The bill is a move in response to the federal government's failed attempt last year to outlaw minors performing what the Department of Labor considered dangerous agricultural work. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was one of the few Democrats in the Senate to oppose the proposed rules.
"These rules would threaten Missouri's agricultural industry and traditions and deny our teenagers critical life skills and lessons," a news release from McCaskill stated. "Young folks working on farms develop deep and long-lasting respect for hard work — and that's a Missouri value."
Ultimately, the proposed rules were tossed out in the face of considerable opposition from both Republicans in Congress and agricultural groups.
"The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations," a Department of Labor news release stated.
SB16 is identical to Section 262.795 of last year's House Bill 1254, which was passed by the House in May 2012. If enacted, SB16 would take effect Aug. 28.