Amish Seek Exemption from Child Labor Laws

Bill Would Let Religious Community's Teens Work in Manufacturing

An Amish boy rides on a horse-drawn mover in Lancaster County, Penn.

An Amish boy rides on a horse-drawn mower in Lancaster County, Penn. As jobs move from farming to the manufacturing sector, the Amish -- who begin apprenticeships at age 14 -- have clashed with federal child labor laws. © Joe McDonald/CORBIS hide caption

itoggle caption © Joe McDonald/CORBIS

In recent decades, an increasing number of Amish have abandoned their traditional farming jobs for work in the manufacturing sector. There's just one catch: Child labor laws say that teens can work on farms, not in shops with power tools. That's a problem in the Amish community, where teenagers stop their schooling and begin apprenticeships at age 14.

A new bill in Congress seeks to change labor laws to allow Amish teenagers to work in sawmills and woodworking shops. Opponents of the bill say it does not fully take into account the dangers inherent in a workplace where saws and other power tools abound. But as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the Amish see the bill as a necessary measure to protect their way of life.

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