- More states are joining the trend of allowing minors to legally serve alcohol and bartend.
- In April, Iowa̵[ads1]7;s Senate voted to pass a bill that would allow teenagers to serve alcohol.
- Lawmakers in Wisconsin are pushing to lower the drinking age from 18 to 14.
Bars in various states across the country may be staffed by high school students as more lawmakers and businesses push to lower the legal age for serving alcohol and bartending.
There are at least nine states — including Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Mexico, Alabama, Wisconsin and Idaho — that have passed or introduced laws that would allow minors ages 14 to 17 to serve alcohol, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.
The trend has gained traction since 2021 as companies and lawmakers seek solutions to an ongoing labor shortage. In April, Iowa’s Republican-led state Senate voted 32-17 to pass a bill rolling back child labor laws in the state. The bill would allow teenagers to work until 9:00 p.m. during the school year and until 11:00 p.m. over the summer and serve alcohol.
The restaurant industry is backing lawmakers in their efforts to loosen child labor laws, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The National Restaurant Association – which represents over 100 restaurant companies – has reportedly lobbied support for the growing pattern. However, there is a risk of putting minors around alcohol, say analysts.
“Laws that lower the drinking age would expose more young people, at younger ages, to potentially dangerous working conditions at low wages — all in the service of employers’ pursuit of cheap labor,” Nina Mast, an analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, said in the report.
As businesses struggle to hire and retain employees, fast food franchises and factories have faced backlash for illegal labor practices involving children. In February, Pennsylvania McDonald’s locations were accused of violating child labor laws after seven restaurants were found to have employed 154 minors at inappropriate times, according to the US Department of Labor.
Earlier this year, sanitation company Packers Sanitation Services Inc. was fined $1.5 million for employing at least 102 children ages 13 to 17 under “hazardous conditions,” according to the DOL.
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