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Pennsylvania Child Labor Law revisions may hurt teenage newspaper carriers

September 29, 2010 - Bernard A. Oravec
Proposed child labor law revision needlessly restricts youth newspaper carriers

Proposed Pennsylvania state child labor legislation that took root from concerns  over children employed in the entertainment industry has morphed into a bill that, if approved, could eliminate all child carriers for the Sun-Gazette and other newspapers, according to Sun-Gazette Publisher Bernard A. Oravec.
 
Oravec testified on September 23, 2010 to the Pennsylvania State House Labor Relations Committee, which is considering two bills (HB 2515 and HB 19) that could prohibit youth carriers from delivering the newspaper before 6 a.m.
 
Speaking on behalf of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, Oravec 
pushed for a amended bill - if there is one - that would push the minimum 
start time for youth carriers to 5 a.m. “That would allow our teenage carriers time to deliver newspapers and still get ready for school or church,” Oravec said.

While he understands the point of the original legislation -  prevention of abuse of children working in the entertainment industry - those issues don’t apply to the newspaper industry or other occupations, such as the family farms.

Oravec said most working men and women want their newspaper by 6 a.m., 
so they can read it before work and the Sun-Gazette’s goal is to  deliver weekdays by 6 a.m. and on Sundays by 7 a.m. “To limit the start of work for a kid working on a family farm to 7a.m. or even 6 a.m. would never work,” Oravec commented. “Pennsylvania farmers are also very concerned.”

The Sun-Gazette has about 15 carriers under the age of 18 and there 
are about 1,200 carriers in that age group statewide in the newspaper 
industry.  Oravec said a typical teenage carrier delivers to 40 to 50 suburban 
homes in about 45 minutes, earning up to $175 per month. Not enough for an adult to make a living, but enough for a teenager to save for spending money in the future.

“The youth carrier is a fixture in small-town America and represents traditional family values of independence and self reliance,” he said.  Some of the issues that are behind the legislation - such as safety and exploitation - have never been a problem for the newspaper’s youth carriers, Oravec pointed out, adding that parents often accompany their children on newspaper routes.  “We understand their concerns regarding the entertainment industry,  but those concerns don’t apply to our industry,” he said,.  

Traditionally, youths delivering newspapers earned valuable spending 
money while developing work ethic, character and some knowledge of the 
business world while fulfilling their duties. There’s never been a  restrictive start time applied to newspaper carriers.  “We would have to eliminate all child carriers under the terms of this legislation and we don’t want to do that,” Oravec said.

Deborah L. Musselman, PNA director of Government Affairs, noted that 
the two pieces of legislation came about from concerns for children 
working in the TV and motion picture industry.  She said she doubted that either bill, which remain in committee,  would be passed any time soon.
“There aren’t enough legislation days (this session) for either one to 
get a vote,” she said.
 
“The teenage newspaper carrier is a beloved and important tradition in central Pennsylvania. We hope to see the tradition continue for the next generation of young people.” Oravec said. 
 
{Today’s blog is based on the long version working text for a story to be published in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette on September 30, 2010 by reporter Mike Reuther with additions by publisher Bernie Oravec and managing editor Dave Troisi.} 


 

 
 

 

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Bernard A. Oravec, publisher of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, offers testimony on behalf of the Pennsylvania newspaper industry before the Pennsylvania State House Labor Relations Committee on September 23, 2010. The committee is discussing a revision to the state's child labor laws contained in HB 2515 and HB 19. The revisions would protect children in the TV and motion picture industries. Presenting with Mr. Oravec is Deborah Musselman, Director of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania Newspapers Association (PNA).