A new law in Maine aims to make it easier for 14- and 15-year-olds to enter the workforce.
LD 1564 streamlines the process of obtaining work permits, and opens new employment opportunities for teenagers, according to labor committee chair Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough).
Volk said the new labor law repeals a rule that prohibited 14 and 15-year-olds from working at bowling alleys and movie theaters. It also defines what kind of jobs the teens can take at amusement parks, hotels, and bakeries.
“This is making it easier for those in tourism industry to staff up,” said Volk.
Gov. Paul LePage has been pushing for these kind of employment reforms for years, according to a Department of Labor press release. Volk believes this year, the measure gained bipartisan support because so many Maine businesses were suffering from a labor shortage.
“It is a tough, tough hiring environment,” said Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats bakery in Portland.
Tourism-related businesses have been hit especially hard by a seasonal worker shortage. There are fewer foreign workers coming to the U.S. on visas. On top of that, Maine is experiencing a low unemployment rate, so there are fewer applicants seeking jobs.
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Begin said she has hired 15-year-olds at the bakery, but doesn’t know if she would support hiring someone as young as 14.
“I probably would not hire someone that young,” she said. “There’s not a whole lot they can do here with restrictions.”
At a Saco amusement park, Funtown Splashtown USA, young teens have been working arcade games, retail shops, and food stands for years.
“There are plenty of mature enough 14- and 15-year-olds who want to work,” said Ed Hodgdon, the park’s marketing manager.
He said his park has been able to hire young teens due to Maine Department of Labor guidelines. This new law doesn’t change hiring practices for them – but it does re-enforce those Department of Labor rules.
Hodgdon thinks the new law can help other summer businesses, allowing them to dip in to a pool of younger workers.
“They fill an important part of the team here,” he said.
Teenagers still need the same parental and school superintendent permissions to be hired.