ST. LOUIS -- Operators of three of the nation's biggest movie theater chains have paid more than $277,000 in federal fines over allegations that they violated child-labor laws by letting teenagers work too many hours and use dangerous machinery such as trash compactors, the Labor Department announced Tuesday.
The government said the alleged violations of U.S. child-labor laws by Regal Cinemas Inc., Marcus Theatres Corp. and Wehrenberg Inc. were uncovered as part of a "strategic" crackdown on what the department called the industry's high rate of noncompliance.
Investigators found the supposed offenses to be sweeping, surfacing in 27 theaters in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Some 160 employees were illegally being required to perform hazardous jobs -- everything from operating paper balers and trash compactors to driving motor vehicles, using power-driven mixers and baking -- in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's youth-employment provisions, the Labor Department said.
That law identifies 17 hazardous jobs barred for workers younger than 18, including operating and unloading scrap paper balers and paper box compactors unless certain specific conditions are met. The law also restricts the times and hours of employees younger than 16.
According to federal law, workers 14 or 15 may do certain occupations outside school hours, but not before 7 a.m. or later than 7 p.m., or past 9 p.m. from June 1 until Labor Day. Such workers also may not work more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, or eight hours on a non-school day and 40 hours in a week when school isn't in session.
It makes no sense to me how they can proclaim a 16 year old can choose to abort, go to a pharmacy and get the morning-after-pill without a prescription, without counseling, and without parental knowledge, but this same person can't run a trash compactor or food mixer because she doesn't have the maturity for the task.
And people wonder why companies move over seas. I guess the movie theater business didn't get the memo to hire illegal aliens instead of young ambitious teenagers.
The real surprise to me is that some government worker, to make this assessment, must have actually got that CLOSE to actual work. My mental portrait of a government worker is someone sitting at their state-of-the-art desk in their $800 ergonomic chairs with a $3000 computer setup (that they have no idea how to use and don't care as long as they can find the solitaire game) complaining about the carpal tunnel syndrome they get from having to intermittently use a keyboard for more than 2 hours without a 20 minute break.
Today's overprotected teenagers... tomorrow's union leaders.