Following high-profile violations of child labor, legislation would increase oversight of youth work permits


State Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) testifies on his House Bill 5594 before the House Labor Committee on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at the House Office Building in Lansing.

LANSING, Mich., May 23, 2024 — Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) to reform youth work permits received testimony today. House Bill 5594 amends the state’s Youth Employment Standards Act by shifting the responsibility of issuing work permits for minors from school administrators to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), making it more efficient and consistent across the state. After the hearing, Skaggs issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately, here in Michigan — including in our own West Michigan communities — we have already seen the devastating consequences of ineffective child labor laws. Children have had their hands shredded in meat grinders and their backs broken after falls from roofs. Michigan’s children need to be protected everywhere. It is our duty as legislators to defend young people from exploitation in the workplace. The current system of enforcing work permits is antiquated and severely limits the enforcement of child labor laws, which can result in the exploitation of young workers. Under the current, outdated system, minors apply for permits at their local high school. Since the permits are spread throughout the state at each individual high school, enforcement of child labor laws are nearly impossible because state agencies simply do not know where children are working. This legislation modernizes the youth work permitting process by having kids apply to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Plus, the proposed new system streamlines the work permit process for businesses and will shorten the period between job offers and employees at work. I will always put kids first and defend young Michiganders from anyone who wants to make child exploitation easier.”