Kevin O’Brien of The Plain Dealer has already addressed this particular aspect of an over-regulatory government, so I’ll just quote heavily from his editorial. It seems our illustrious Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, is the one who’s at it for our government, this time. Per Solis, kids aren’t to be allowed to work on the family farm, anymore. They might catch a blister, poor dears.
It seems Solis’ answer to this problem is to
…prohibit hired workers under 16 from operating almost all power-driven equipment unless they have been “enrolled in a vocational education program in agriculture under a recognized state or local educational authority or in a substantially similar program conducted by a private school.”
So, let’s see: a VoTech program is better equipped to train a minor in operating farm equipment than is the farmer who owns and operates that equipment. Last I looked, VoTech programs don’t have many tractors, or balers, or plows, or harrows, or…. Those are mostly down on the farm. On what basis would we expect a school to train the use of farm equipment or tools when they don’t have any? There’s that Federal government logical thinking.
Solis insists that kids working on the farm have a higher fatality rate than kids working elsewhere (wait—there are kids working? Where are Solis’ child labor laws? Certainly, they’re not working in their schools as part-time janitors…).
But as O’Brien points out,
[The kids are] a lot less vulnerable than children who have to walk through a bad neighborhood after their shift at McDonald’s….
Solis goes even further:
…prohibit young people from doing any work that would take them more than six feet above ground level or engaging in any activity that would expose them to “unpredictable animal behavior.”
But tree climbing for recreation is OK—or is government going to intrude into my backyard and ban that, too? The neighbor’s dog doesn’t like me, either—but he’s pretty predictable. Never mind that; as O’Brien points out, sometimes you have to work more than six feet off the ground. Ha lofts in barns, for instance.
As Senator Ben Nelson (D, NE) points out, though, this sort of rule is inimical to the welfare of farming and of rural economies. Solis’ rule could
…change the structure of family farms and have a negative impact on the education of the next generation of farmers.
This proposed rule is another example of Washington being out of touch with Nebraskans’ values. The Department of Labor should kill this rule before it destroys important traditions in rural America and hurts the farm economy.
One out of every three jobs in Nebraska is tied to agriculture. We need to increase opportunities for our family farmers and ranchers to strengthen our rural economies, not threaten them with new, unneeded regulations from Washington.
Of course, Solis could have another class of laborer in mind for these jobs.
As O’Brien describes this from his own childhood, actual learning by the young worker would be lost to such rules:
I learned a tremendous amount about animals in those years, and a fair amount about people. I chased things. I got chased by things. I learned that work — even sweaty, smelly, dusty, tiring work — could be fun.
Along the way, I learned to differentiate among things and activities that deserved respect, things and activities that were actually worth fearing and things and activities that were no big deal if you handled them properly.
These are lessons that aren’t available in any school or VoTech program. These are lessons that only can be learned through doing.
As O’Brien points out, though,
…a little time on the farm would have done Hilda Solis some good. She spooks too easily….