Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill through the Maine Legislature that would rollback child labor laws enacted by the state in 1991.
The bill, LD 1346, establishes a "training wage" for employees under 20 years of age at $5.25 per hour for their first 180 days of employment and increases the amount of hours minors can legally work. The proposed "training wage" is over two dollars less than the state's current minimum wage.
The bill also would eliminate the maximum hours a minor over 16 can work during school days and allow minors to work over 50 hours a week when school is not in session.
Another bill, LD 516, is headed to the Senate floor for a vote after being passed along party lines by a Senate committee, with Democrats voting against the measure. It would allow minors 16 years and older to work up to six hours a day and until 11pm on a school night.
Republicans currently control the state's House and Senate.
The new legislation comes after Maine's Republican Governor Paul LePage ordered a 36-foot mural depicting the history of labor movements in Maine to be removed from the state's Department of Labor building.
"I’m trying to send a message to everyone in the state that the state of Maine looks at employees and employers equally, neutrally and on balance," he reportedly said.
"It's just too perfect after the flap with the mural," Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said. "First, the governor tries to whitewash history and now this bill is trying to erase the progress of child labor laws itself."
Republicans claim rolling back the child labor laws would give employees and employers greater flexibility and let students save more money for college. Democrats said they oppose the bills because it takes money away from young employees and could harm students education.
"Rolling back child labor standards that protect teenagers will be disruptive to their education, is shortsighted for our long-term economic development goals, and could undermine our efforts to decrease school drop-out rates," said Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, who serves as the House Democratic Leader.