Evers Vetoes Republican Bill That Would Have Allowed More Wisconsin Teens To Work Without Parental Consent

Evers Vetoes Republican Bill That Would Have Allowed More Wisconsin Teens To Work Without Parental Consent

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today delivered remarks at the Wisconsin State Council of Machinists 2024 Spring Conference in Madison and vetoed Senate Bill 436, which would have eliminated the requirement that employers obtain a work permit in order to employ 14- or 15-year-olds. The governor’s veto comes amid a rise in teenagers working in hazardous or illegal jobs for their age in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, from 2021 to 2023, the number of minors employed in violation of child labor laws increased by 105 percent.

Excerpts from Gov. Evers’ remarks for the Wisconsin State Council of Machinists 2024 Spring Conference as prepared for delivery are below.

“I don’t have to tell the folks in this room that Wisconsin faces generational challenges retaining and recruiting talented workers. In April last year, our state unemployment rate hit a historic-low of 2.4 percent. Last year, Wisconsin had the all-time lowest number of unemployed workers ever in modern history. And our state’s labor force participation rate also consistently remained above the national average throughout the year.

“So, it’s also time to retire the well-worn political talking point that Wisconsinites aren’t working or working hard—Wisconsinites work hard, and they are working. It’s why I was proud to declare 2024 the Year of the Worker—we need real, meaningful, and long-term solutions to address our state’s workforce challenges.

“Not once, but twice now, I’ve introduced a comprehensive workforce plan that would invest in child care statewide to prevent the industry’s looming collapse, expand paid family leave to help us compete with our neighboring states, invest in our higher education institutions, and bolster high-demand industries. Unfortunately, Republicans have rejected my plan both times.

“The bill before me today, Senate Bill 436, isn’t a serious proposal to address generational statewide issues. This bill is wrong for our kids and wrong for our state.

“Governor Evers continues to stand up for the safety of our kids by protecting child labor law in Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale. “The important work permit process for 14- and 15-year-olds keeps parents’ rights intact and helps kids stay safe on the job. The dangerous push to weaken child labor law in Wisconsin and across the country comes at a time when more children are harmed at work or work hazardous jobs. With today’s important veto, Governor Evers has rightfully halted the latest attempt to roll back the clock on child labor law.”

“Child labor safeguards are in place to protect the life, health, safety, and welfare of children,” said Alex Hoekstra, Directing Business Representative of the Machinists Union District 10. “We thank Governor Evers for taking action to uphold the work permit process for kids in Wisconsin. Strong child labor laws are essential to keeping kids safe from injury or harm at work.”

During his 2024 State of the State address, Gov. Evers declared 2024 the Year of the Worker in Wisconsin and announced new efforts by the Evers Administration to build a workforce prepared to meet the needs of a 21st-century economy, including launching the state’s first teacher apprenticeship pilot program, creating the Governor’s Task Force on the Healthcare Workforce, and establishing the Office of Employee Engagement and Retention for the state of Wisconsin workforce, which will focus on recruiting and retaining state employees.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has hit record lows, reaching an all-time low of 2.4 percent in April 2023, and Wisconsin continues to have an unemployment rate below the national average and a labor participation rate above the national average.

Additionally, Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship Program reached a record 16,384 enrolled apprentices in 2023, an all-time record in the program’s 112-year history and surpassing the previous record-high participation in the program in 2022. Additionally, Gov. Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) celebrated record-breaking Youth Apprenticeships during the 2021-2022 school year with 8,357 participants and 5,719 employers. Youth Apprenticeship, which started in 1991 as the first program of its kind in the nation, is a strong connector to registered apprenticeship programs.

Still, with historically low unemployment and high workforce participation, coupled with a shrinking labor pool caused by several long-term factors, Wisconsin’s small businesses, farmers and producers, hospitals and healthcare sectors, schools, and other critical employers and industries continue to face significant challenges filling available jobs.

Gov. Evers and his administration are committed to efforts to reduce barriers to employment, support opportunities for advancement through Wisconsin’s leading apprenticeship programs, and recruit and retain talented workers to support critical industries of Wisconsin’s workforce. In the past year alone, Gov. Evers has introduced multiple workforce plans that address critical issues in Wisconsin’s historic workforce challenges.

Last August, after Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature failed to include critical funding for Wisconsin’s workforce in the final 2023-25 budget, Gov. Evers introduced his comprehensive workforce plan and called a special session of the Legislature to finish their job on the budget. The governor’s comprehensive workforce plan would have made direct investments to prevent the state’s child care industry and ensure child care is affordable and accessible for working families statewide, as well as expanded paid family and medical leave for working families, bolstered high-need workforce sectors such as the state’s education and healthcare workforces, and provided substantial support for the state’s higher education institutions to help prevent further campus closures and layoffs and ensure the state can recruit, train, and retain workers.

In November, after months of delay and failure to present a real, meaningful workforce plan, Republicans passed an amended proposal that was entirely different than the governor’s comprehensive plan. Gov. Evers vetoed the GOP-amended proposal that did not make direct investments to help parents afford child care and keep child care provider doors open today or prevent the child care industry’s collapse in the long term; did not expand paid family and medical leave for working families to help ensure Wisconsin can compete against neighboring states; did not help substantively bolster high-need sectors of the state’s workforce, including the state’s education and healthcare workforces; and did not provide substantial support or investments for the state’s higher education institutions.

Last Update: Apr 09, 2024 6:27 am CDT

Share This Article