State lawmakers consider teen work permit rollback

State lawmakers consider teen work permit rollback

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would rollback work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Senate Bill 11 is the first in a series of initiatives that work to improve employment access for unaccompanied and homeless adolescents in Wisconsin.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, worked with homeless youth advocates last summer to research how state laws impact a homeless minor’s ability to act without parental consent.

“Unaccompanied and homeless youth are vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, abuse and other negative outcomes. Often disconnected by family and friends, these teens are particularly susceptible to traffickers who will lower them with the promise of food, warmth and even false love,” Loudenbeck said.

She believes getting these teens into employment earlier in life will be a positive alternative.

“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,” Loudenbeck said.

Currently under Wisconsin law, anyone under 18 years old is required to provide a signed work permit by an employer and a parent or guardian. Loudenbeck said many of these at-risk teens either don’t have parents to get that signature or guardians they can rely on.

On the other side of the bill, representatives with the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO testified against the bill during a hearing Wednesday morning. They say because the proposal includes all 16- and 17-year-old Wisconsin residents, it will strip parents of their right to sign off on a child’s employment.

“We believe that that right of those parents to have that discussion and have that authority over their children’s work, ability to work, should be preserved,” Secretary Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale said.

Bloomingdale also mentioned the $10 work permit fee helps pay for state employees who regulate other rules within child labor laws. She said their positions would be at risk of being cut if the bill was to pass.

Wisconsin is one of 15 states that requires a work permit for all residents under 18. If the bill passes, Wisconsin would join 18 other states that have similar age-work requirements.