We heard the news reports this week about how one of NJ's biggest employers and most generous corporations, Jersey Mike's Subs, is being fined for violating child labor laws.

Jersey Mike's in Neptune. (Google Maps)
(Google Maps)

The reported case has them under fire for allowing 14- and 15-year-old's to work more than three hours on a school night.

Really? You mean the same kids that could be struggling with hours on end of homework and afterschool sports and music can't work a few extra minutes if they want to earn some money? It makes no sense to me.

Consider for a moment that Americans seemingly have no issue with the literal child slave labor that is involved with the mining of the minerals for the batteries on the "flavor of the year" — electric vehicles.

Equally ignored is the horrific child labor abuses in China, which make most of the world's gadgets.

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Getty Images

It seems to me that when applying the label of "violating and abusing children," the very idea that a company could be fined for empowering a 14-year-old, who wants or needs to work, based on a longer than legal shift is absurd.

We have a serious labor shortage in the country. Much of the crisis has been caused by irresponsible and reckless government policy that has incentivized many adults to stay home and collect a check. It's no wonder that the food service industry needs younger workers.

Instead of pretending that a kid can't work more than a three-hour shift on a school night, we should change the child labor laws to encourage young people to start working.

A few extra hours a week will help businesses and the kids. Earning money, taking on responsibility, socializing in a public setting, customer service, and job skills are all on the table for 14 and 15-year-olds.

Brooke Cagle via Unsplash
Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

There is a bill supported by my friends at NJ Business & Industry Association. Not a fix-all, as it doesn't address the younger workers who are 14 and 15, but it's a start. AND it does address the cultural issue that kids SHOULD be empowered to work, not coddled and treated as victims.

Let's address real child labor abuses across the globe and stop conflating real abuse with kids wanting to get an early start in real life.

Empower the kids. Empower their parents and let 'em work.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Spadea. Any opinions expressed are Bill's own. Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015.

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