MARCH 23, 1950
NEW YORK, Wednesday—I came across the story in one of the magazines the other day called, "Federal Snoops Are After Me." It sounded so reasonable as it told the story of a struggling small-business man and his wife, trying to establish themselves, bothered by endless government red tape and prevented from giving harmless work and pleasure to some of their young neighbors.
I felt there must be something here that needed investigation, so I wrote to the department from which come these bothersome "federal snoops," and received a report on the case in point.
In the first place, an executive department of the government must carry out laws that have been made by the legislative representatives of the people. In this case, laws under which these investigators were acting were the Fair Labor Standards Act and numerous state child labor laws. These laws had been passed as a result of a high percentage of accidents among young workers in occupations where machinery for mechanical production was used. Sixteen years is the minimum age allowed for employment in such shops under these standards.
I think it is easily understood that in shops containing electrically operated or other power-driven machinery, teenagers, even if they do not work with that machinery, cannot be kept from having a natural curiosity about it, which may lead them into trouble.
Actually, the owner was not required, as the story states, to pay himself wages, but it was pointed out to him that being a corporation, technically he was an employee. The real objection was the use of birthday cakes, apples and pin money instead of payment of the minimum wage due the children who were coming in to work.
This law has been of value to the teenagers of our country in helping them to avoid accidents and as an incentive to remain longer in school, and when they do work to obtain the minimum wage for such hours as they are occupied. It should be supported.
Though my sympathy is with young people starting out to establish their own businesses—and I would want to help them in any reasonable way—it seems that it should be done through making loans more reasonably available to them for the necessary capital investment and the first years of operation. Children under 16 who are employed should be employed on work which is carefully chosen and approved, if possible, by their parents and the principal of the school.
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It is rare nowadays that I read every word of a novel, even when I find a story interesting. I skip because here and there one can so easily imagine what the author is going to say. But in "The Cardinal" by Henry Morton Robinson, I found myself too much interested in the central character and in the constantly changing, kaleidoscopic scenes of American life, to miss a word.
Interwoven with the story are some explanations of Roman Catholic faith and practice that will be illuminating to many people and interesting to those who have not known them before. I think it is a book that will do good and create more sympathetic understanding among people who hold different beliefs. Just as a novel, however, it will, I am sure, be of absorbing interest to every reader.