TOO YOUNG TO WORK?

TOO YOUNG TO WORK?

When Alden, Colorado started its transformation from a sleepy mountain town to a booming ski resort two years ago, local businesses and hotel owners weren’t the only ones who benefited; so did 13-year-old Tim Brady and his friends. To their delight, a local supermarket began hiring kids to work two afternoons a week packing customers’ groceries and taking them out to the parking lot. Everyone was happy: the youngsters got to supplement their pocket money and the shoppers got better service. However, the arrangement came to an abrupt end three months ago, when a local newspaper published an article accusing the supermarket of breaking the child labor law regarding the employment of minors under age 14. The supermarket had no choice but to fire the children.

Tim’s father, local council member Mark Brady, is indignant. “For some mysterious reason,” he said in an interview to a local radio station, “kids under 14 can be employed in a few select jobs, like modeling and acting, but they can’t pack groceries. What strange standards did lawmakers use in order to determine which work is suitable for a child? Why are some extremely demanding jobs not prohibited, whereas far easier ones are?” Brady believes the time has come to rethink the law and allow children to be employed in a wider, more sensible range of jobs.

To Brady’s surprise, a letter he sent to several national newspapers generated considerable opposition. Many parents claimed that afternoon jobs would adversely affect their children’s academic achievements. Brady rejects that argument. Those very same parents, he says, encourage their children to participate in extracurricular activities requiring just as many hours. He also insists that an after-school job is no less educational. “By earning and spending their own money kids gain independence and a sense of self-confidence. And what better way to teach responsibility than by requiring a child to fulfill the demands of a part-time job?”

Undaunted by the response to his letter, Brady is carrying on his campaign. Next he plans to go on TV. “My message is clear and simple, and I intend to get it across to more and more parents,” he says. “I’m sure eventually there will be sufficient public support to sway the authorities.”