Dept. of Labor & Industries Investigating WHL Teams for Possible Child Labor Law Violations
Ever since we legalized marijuana, strange things have been happening in our state. Now, Labor and Industries is snooping around the Spokane Chiefs, Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans.
Because a large number of the players are under the age of 18, L&I says the amount of money these players receive in relation to the time they spend playing hockey could constitute a violation of minimum wage laws.
SWX, part of the KNDU-TV family (KNDU is our news partner) is reporting L&I officials claim a 2013 complaint pointed out potential alleged allegations. From SWX:
"Spokesman for the Washington Department of L&I, Matt Elrich, stated a 2013 complaint to the department pointed out how much money the players made in relation to the time they worked and that the allegation hinted it might be below the state's minimum wage."
No mention was made who made the complaint, or the source it came from. The WHL website has a position on this, which makes it pretty clear how they handle this situation:
"The WHL in an amateur league working in conjunction with the Canadian Hockey League and the Hockey Canada. Players do receive a very modest monthly stipend while playing in the WHL, which provides them with spending money that they cannot earn in part-time jobs due to the time commitments of school and hockey."
The WHL also issued the following statement, from Commissioner Ron Robinson:
"The Western Hockey League (WHL) Member Clubs in Washington are aware that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has been taking a look at junior hockey with regard to the status of our amateur players. Our WHL Clubs in Washington have responded to the government, providing requested information and explaining that our players are student athletes playing in a developmental hockey league, and participating in and contributing to their sport the same way as other amateur athletes. We are advised by the Department that..no decision has been reached in the matter. Amateur hockey players have competed within the WHL in the State of Washington since 1977. The WHL certainly recognizes that undoubtedly any changes to the status of junior hockey players could impact the status of other amateur athletes in the state as well."
L&I fails to realize that these ARE amateur players, and it's a complex situation.
We can't help but somehow think the source of the complaint was inspired by the Northwestern University NCAA court action over the last year. In THAT case, players at the Division 1 university wanted to "unionize" because they were basically employees of the school, who's "work" (playing football) generated revenue for the school.
Either that, or somebody doesn't have anything better to do with their time than stir the pot.
The WHL expanded in the U.S., namely Washington state, because of the popularity of hockey, and it made sense geographically to add teams in our region. The LAST thing Washington state government needs to be doing is engaging in policies that will irritate and infuriate a large industry or business in such a manner than when opportunities to go elsewhere arise, they will leave.