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Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Amish in conflict with labor laws

Afraid of the corrosive effects of the teenage leisure culture, the traditional communities want their adolescent males to lean a trade but others argue the dangerous occupation becoming a mainstay of the Amish economy is no place for children

By Steven Greenhouse  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BIRD-IN-HAND, PENNSYLVANIA

Some critics argue that the exemption would be unconstitutional because it would treat the Amish differently from people of other religions.

"The bill would deny Amish children the very real benefits of government health and safety protection that are afforded Catholic, Baptist, Jewish or any other children of non-Amish faith," said Nicholas Clark, a child labor expert with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Jim Lapp, operating manager of a non-Amish sawmill in Paradise, said the proposed exemption would give the Amish a cost advantage

"I guess an Amish 14-, 15-, 16-year-old will work for less than an 18-year-old," said Lapp, who, like others, also cites the safety issue.

"My question is whether adults will be next to them all the time," he said. "If so, that's fine. If there's not an adult around all the time, that's a problem."

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