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Bob Bader Why we need more children to do more labor

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Bob Bader

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:26 am, Wed May 23, 2012.

In a conversation I had with a young Thornton civic leader named Mike Stokes the other day, the subject of child labor arose. We were talking about lethargic teens and the need for some of them to engage in employment that would empower them in two ways: 1.) They'd earn money; and 2.) They would learn the value of an honest day's work for a logical day's pay.

Mike is from a wonderful family that isn't afraid of hard work, and he learned as a kid what that's all about. And he doesn't agree with the California legislative nerds who are goofing things up in the child labor arena.

Will Rogers said, "When Congress makes a joke it's a law, and when they make a law it's a joke." Or as Molly used to say to Fibber, her husband, "That ain't funny, McGee!"

Being from city folk, my first real job contract was with the back fence neighbor lady, Mrs. Zink, who looked 90 the day we met and got older from there.

She was little, had a little beehive of stark white hair piled on her stubborn little head and she had a small, neat yard on east Walnut Street. Her lawn was kinda spindly and she demanded that it be cut east and west, north and south and diagonally. Her lawn edger was a large, one-piece scissors only you older folks would remember; it was a big, old, single unit that was a spring with blades. My hands were too small so it took both of them to squeeze down on the unit, and it was really hard to cut Bermuda grass with it.

As it turned out, I ended up with the grip of a muscle-bound milkmaid by the time I was 10.

The lady had a cute little toy collie that was an ankle biter, so I learned to cut the lawn and dance at the same time.

Moving right along ...

In the 1930s, Henry and Karen Hansen founded the Richmaid ice cream business here in town. They were "parents" to a few hundred Lodi kids, but they had none of their own. When we were really little, we used to pick strawberries for them to use as flavor for their marvelous ice cream. Our wages for that work was measured in silver quarters, and to have four of them at one time was big-time wealth complete with bragging rights. We were paid "piece work," so our average hourly wage was in the 25-cent range.

They didn't have child labor law issues in those days, because our working hours never reached, much less exceeded, five in one day. Besides, it wasn't stoop labor 'cause we were so short we didn't hafta stoop to pick the fruit.

The job had lotsa perks: All the strawberries we could eat, treats several times a day and free root beer floats whenever we showed up at their restaurant on Oak Street, down the block from Lincoln Grammar School.

What brought up the subject of child labor was talk of another incredibly stupid labor law enactment by the highly touted California Legislature (they have about a 6 percent approval rate). I do have to digress here in discussing California politicians, or you will come away with the feeling I have lost my touch when it comes to joshing those jerks.

Sometimes I write these articles while staring at the ceiling looking for a subject you might like, and the other night I reminisced about my highly diversified work experiences. In high school I worked in a dime store (now called a dollar store — shows ya what happened to the dime). A silver dime can bring as much as a couple thousand bucks if it is rare enough; otherwise it is only worth the silver one could melt from it.

At the 1940s rates, a dime paid for an hour's labor, whether I was shoveling what the cow left behind or removing a few tons of grape pumice out of winery fermenting tanks that seemed as big as the Fleischacker swimming pool over at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Fermenting pumice, besides making one light-headed from the fumes, has a nice feature on a cold fall day: The stuff gets hot, and one's feet are soon feverish. It is a perfect medium in which to grow a heroic case of athlete's foot.

As young high school kids showing off how fast we could load a truck with lug boxes of Zinfandel, there was never a time we wouldn't have cause apoplexy in politicians' brains (especially the kind of Sacramento do-gooders we have now, who even frown on a toy that takes two active thumbs and 16 drops of brow sweat a week to operate). What we did there would be paramount to abject slavery in the minds of the numb-nuts who are running things these days.

As Tiny Tim said in those days of yore: "God bless us, one and all."

Bob Bader can be reached at bobbyo@softcom.net.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:32 am on Mon, May 28, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Ms Bobin stated...I agree with Mr. Lauchland that ranchers and farmers who run a "family" business should not be subject to "child labor laws...

    Of course all children should be subject to child labor laws...but not the ones that prevent them from working or getting paid less than minimum wage.. All children, not just one's working on farms, should be encouraged to work, earn money and experience the values of earning what they get instead of getting it free simply because they are children. Imagine a country where children respect themselves and others because they experienced difficulties, hardships, confidence, pride and joy that one normally gets from work. That exists in third world countries...but not much in United States.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 1:07 pm on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    My kids are in their twenties and thirties. Their values are changing as they get older. They each hold positions of responsibility including being good husbands and fathers for those that are married. A position of self reliance and goal orient drives each one to want to be self employed down the road sometime from what I see. That drive started somewhere and I feel good about being able to be part of that start. Sports, Band and Speech and the farm got them through College and Career school.
    My youngest is majoring in Enology now and we are extremely worried about the Universities as I am in hock up to my ears trying to see his future. Hock , hock hock. Spit ! He works part time for a winery.
    My second is a pilot for an airlines and has experienced a very rough time and all I can do is tell him to keep trying. He and his wife have two kids.
    My oldest diagnoses Toyota problems as a technician and desires a setting that encourages self promotion. An eight year stint in the reserves helped toughen him. He has looked at the future and the past and worries that the farm which he still identifies with may go by the wayside after I am gone.
    My wife has built a business aside from the farm and we have had the opportunity to strap our kids to our backs and keep moving forward. We have encouraged them to be diverse and responsible to the best of our ability.

    My wife and I have tried to encourage each one to follow their dreams. Just having a job at this point is a biggy. We try to help.
    When I watch some people come down on the younger or even the older crowd for something they don't match minds with - my father instinct kicks in. I will knock you to the ground every time to protect the vulnerable. Trigger words such as idiot and stupid deserve a negative response or as Pat would say "When to fight or walk away"
    My kids and I have had conversations and they understand that the buck stops here. My oldest worries that if he came back what would happen if he disagrees with me. He needs to prove to me that he is right as I had to with my dad. Otherwise my experience prevails. His self drive at a younger age has to prove itself more than mine does at this point.
    I was a 'boss" when I was 20. A good and respectfull time in the workplace makes me happy. Yep - even Mexican music blasting on the edge of the vineyard in the afternoon for ten minutes just to change the mood .
    There was a time that Oklahama people came to California to harvest the crops before Mexicans. I personally know many prominent people who got their start in the orchards .
    Teach children at what ever age and respect elders also at whatever age.
    Whiny kids? - But of course - but I remember - they might have to take care of me someday

  • Christina Welch posted at 9:55 am on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    Ms Bobin, So "you don't go back to articles more than a few days old, so no response is necessary." Hmmmm.... you responded to George Neely's May 16th editorial on May 23rd--a full week later. The article on Elkhorn school was from May 19th and I asked you for clarification on May 22nd--all of this is still in less than a week's timeframe. Be honest, Ms Bobin, you just simply don't choose to answer my questions. That's fine. But don't lie and say it's 'cause you just don't go back...

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 5:51 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    I agree with Mr. Lauchland that ranchers and farmers who run a "family" business should not be subject to "child labor laws," unless, of course, there has been a proven reason for establishing such. Legislators do not just pull these things out of their posteriors just for their own jollies. There is usually some reason - number of complaints or whatever it takes to bring a problem to a legislator's attention. Can we attribute this attention to a large amount of whiney children of family farmers? Who knows?

    Just had an interesting conversation with a long time acquaintance at the dog park. We agreed that the values that employees hold have deteriorated in recent decades - and in our experiences, this deterioration cannot be pinned on any one generation or age group.

    The ME generation applies across the board. How often have you encountered the "that's not my job" attitude? The 'that's above my pay grade" attitude? The "I don't work in that department" attitude? Teamwork? What is that? Must be for suckers who don't know any better!

    And one thing is very clear. In my profession I have found that employers, both knowingly and unknowingly, violate labor laws. I'm guessing here, so anyone feel free to prove me wrong, I believe that 99% of employees DO NOT KNOW what their rights are under state and federal labor laws.

    Employees get cheated out of overtime, work breaks, lunch breaks, meal penalties, etc. all of the time. They are miscategorized as exempt salaried employees when they should be non-exempt hourly employees.

    Most don't know that employers must hand them a check on their last day of work, whether they have given notice or been involuntarily terminated. There are penalties for employers for not complying with these laws.

    My point? Labor laws exist for a reason - to protect the employee AND the employer. Labor laws are routinely ignored - either knowingly or unknowingly. Employees need to know their rights. Employers need to know THEIR rights.

    Children, above all, should be protected. If the adults in charge don't know how, within reason, to protect them, them government is ripe to enact laws.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 4:50 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    The only positive thing I can say about Dr. Bader's columns is that he has finally stopped using a derogatory ethnic slur he thought was cute.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 4:47 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Great Googling, Mr. Kinderman. You are a genius!

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:00 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Mr Heuer stated...It taught me also about bosses. There are some really good ones and there are real jerks.

    Yes of course, just like there are employees who are good, and ones that are jerks. There are good and bad in all walks of life.

    The point is that there are too many idol children. Parents and schools should be able to work together as a team with the business community where minimum wages are reduced and valuable experiences can be gained for the benefit for all. The problem is the child labor laws and minimum wage requirements all but eliminate this as an option. Mr Heuer made a good point that work is appropriate for children. Reasonable people should be able to develop checks and balances to insure safety without worrying if bosses, employees or parents are jerks.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 1:52 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    mrh: Finally a thread of commonailty: "It taught me also about bosses. There are some really good ones and there are real jerks. As much as those writng here, if sincere, really want to give kids a great start then yes laws need to be looked at to make sure these experiences aren't quashed. Though my kids did do lots of work at home and for friends...I do (didn't) worry about jerks". I agree... that is why a parent must teach their children not only HOW to work but WHEN to work..and when to walk away. We can agree that we have some very questionable people out there with kids...and exploiting them does come in many masks...

  • Thomas Heuer posted at 1:12 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    nth degree wise Posts: 1669

    One of the most rewarding things to me was when both of my children at different times (and not on fathers day) thanked me for showing them how to work with tools, be responsible and back any decisions they make with a plan. I had many experiences working in the fields and canneries between Stockton and Lodi during and after high school. One of the main things I learned is the value of my labor. It taught me also about bosses. There are some really good ones and there are real jerks. As much as those writng here, if sincere, really want to give kids a great start then yes laws need to be looked at to make sure these experiences aren't quashed. Though my kids did do lots of work at home and for friends and neighbors without any labor law violations. I do worry about jerks. There are those that don't have the same respect for children and see them only as a means to an end, their end, for exploitation. There are those jerks that would do less work if they coulc get the children to do it for them. And of course when confronted about it they would say I'm just teachino about an honest days work. However they have not learned the lessons themselves. Different cultures coming to California have different ideas about child labor that may or may not be acceptable here. You can't do anything about the offenders without law which trips up responsible people in its wake.
    So the title of this column "Why we need more children to do more labor" Is not a title that rings of having the best interests of children at heart. Of course you can glean otherwise reading the article.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 12:24 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Baumbach, but to expect our children to work has really nothing to do with them adding to the family income; it also has little to do with their basic needs as many of us provided those things to our children.

    No, having a job as a kid in high school should be encouraged to help them develop a good work ethic; the ability to manage money; to begin to save for the things they want (rather than later on in life slapping down a credit card to acquire such things); and just for the satisfaction of actually earning something for doing a day's work.

    Of course in the 50's and 60's there were none of the high-tech devices of today that sap a great deal of money from parents to provide to their kids. But we did have vinyl records (33 1/3's and 45's); transistor radios; and the spark plugs, condensers, points, oil, filters, belts, chrome and all the other things they wanted to make the old jalopies running at peak performance (no, this was something I was unable to enjoy until after leaving high school unfortunately).

    I don't believe that kids should be earning the minimum wage in order to gain such experience. After all, most of them are not expected to contribute to the rent, groceries, utilities and other things that parents should be happily providing to them until they reach the time to leave home. There should be a "child wage" that would provide them with enough to get and do the things that most kids are doing nowadays. Such a wage would encourage and permit employers to hire even more kids to train in the areas I identified above.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 12:00 pm on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    To accuse anyone of lying or making something up should require a higher standard of proof other than thinking it to be "unlikely;" especially when there is no attempt to back up such a claim.

    In my opinion Mr. Bader has written many interesting columns and some not so, but I've never doubted his integrity nor his sincerity. I also believe the LNS editors value his work as well. He's a Lodi treasure.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 11:38 am on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Mr. Lauchland, not one to know one grape from another as I've never acquired a taste for the beverage and originally from the east coast where French and German wines were more prevalent than California brands, perhaps what I'm about to offer won't amount to much.

    Nevertheless, upon moving to Lodi in 1990, I do remember that its claim to fame regarding wines was its "White Zin" category. Indeed, I recall the numerous billboards recommending the stuff at nearly every entrance to our fair city. Could it be then that in addition to Tokay grapes, Lodi has produced other varieties? What about sour grapes? There are a few contributors here who seem to have partaken in perhaps a bit too much of that particular selection.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:35 am on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Mr. Baumbach, I know you have in the past expressed the desire for laws to be changed so that underaged workers will to be able to earn a $2 or $3 minimum wage.

    That is just preposterous. You attribute children not working to adverse child labor laws? It has more to do with our prosperous economy and parents' desire to give their children everything.

    I grew up in the 50's and 60's. There were four children in my family. My mother did not work and none of us had jobs until we graduated from high school except occasional babysitting. My dad made $12,000 a year as a telephone installer. My parents owned their home and provided us with all we needed. There were no big screen TV's, video games, computers, cell phones and whatever else kids today expect from their parents.

    Child labor laws had and do not have anything to do with "city kids" not having jobs, no matter how much you wish that to be true.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:21 am on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Mr. Lauchland: At least you have explained the "child labor" issues that Dr. Bader was unable to explain except with his use of abusive language in regard to the state legislators. Thank you for providing the clarity that Dr. Bader couldn't.

    I do understand that Lodi has some "old zin vineyards." It is unlikely that Dr. Bader participated at all in moving lug boxes of zinfandel grapes. Tokays, maybe, but zinfandels, I doubt, which leads me to believe he made up his annecdote for the purpose of his column. Or he is confused.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:12 am on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Mr. Baumbach: Hang up your alter ego.

    I don't go back to articles more than a few days old, so no response is necessary.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:10 am on Thu, May 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Seriously, Ms. Jerke? Do you really think "city kids" are going out and doing field jobs?

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 5:30 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Trying to progress in todays economy. Got one possibly interested in coming back to farming. Deciding it may not have been such a hard place to be after all. Gotta live the life though. Couldn't be more proud of all three boys in their efforts towards the future and their choices. Got grandkids now. Lovin' it but it is not without it's challenges.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 3:37 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Hey Ted...how are the Lauchland kids??? Sorry I left you guys out!!! My bad!

  • Emily Joerke posted at 1:46 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Emily Joerke Posts: 4

    I understand that there are Child Labor Laws and Regualtions, this protects the children/teens from being overworked because so many people were taking advantage of children and were working them to almost death. And due to the many sweat shops, people were forcing children into slavery, working with out pay no breaks and breaking the law. That's besides the point, yes we have to obey the law but I still believe that teaching children at a young age that working is important and to value what you do. As Pat said "HOW to work, not just work." Respect your elders, be on time, see the business side of things, how to sucessfully run a business, etc.

  • Emily Joerke posted at 12:24 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Emily Joerke Posts: 4

    Some of the "city" kids work just as hard, those whose families own and run small businesses work hard and without them helping those businesses would be shut down. Farmers whose farms have been in the family for generations, without the children working hard early in the morning before school, and then coming home after school helping wouldn't strive in this economy. My step father for instance has a Tae Kwondo school he runs out of his garage and me and my siblings help him out, with out us helping keep everything organized, spreading the word he would not be successful. There are plenty of "city" kids who don't just get money/things handed to them. They are tought the value of working hard for what you earn. Granted it is not like it was back in the 60's 70's etc, but there is a generation of youth that know that you need to work for what you get and life doesn't cater to your needs/ wants!!!!

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 12:19 pm on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Ms. Bobin - I am a third generation grape grower in the Lodi area and a multi- generation farmer dating back to pre 1800s . Dr. Bader only makes one mistake that is in assuming you know more than you do about his subject.
    Current attempted changes in labor laws would have prevented legally the "hands on" of teaching farm kids the values of the farm in preventing them from participating in the daily chores associated with the farm existance. The Farm Bureau has successfully thwarted that legal nonsense recently. Dr. Bader's sharing of his experience does not warrant an attack . Research can be done by anyone on said subjects.
    I have hired teenagers in the past and continue to offer that on ocassion to ambitious young people who show a desire to learn and better themselves but today's day and age the work cannot rely on the patience and time necessary to offer much. Most farm related jobs need to be done timely and require a volume of hands and therefore crews are managed.
    I have a fifty year old zin vineyard and I know for a fact that Perano Estates claim hundred year old vines. Many varieties have existed for a very long time. Lugs were at one time the only way to move grapes. Why would you question his experiences ?I value shared knowledge highly from older generations as they know from experience more than most how to build a future. Being quick to judge on someone's personal experiences are without merit.

  • Christina Welch posted at 11:55 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    Ms Bobin,
    But, in your elitist mind, those Hispanic kids you speak of wouldn't have a chance at Elkhorn School, right? Still waiting for your response from that article a few days ago...

  • Emily Joerke posted at 11:51 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Emily Joerke Posts: 4

    Maybe if everyone stopped hiring "illegals" there would be more reasonable jobs for us "city" kids!!!!

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:45 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    OMT: My grandmother is the one who told me that sweat keeps you cool.

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:44 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    Bob: I have to agree...when my kids were growing up they weren't allowed on the job sites for insurance purposes.Today they are in the business and are struggling to learn the trade and business ethics I got working with my uncles and father. The biggest thing I credit my father for is teaching us HOW to work...not just work...but how to work...line up the job, don't waste time, ask questions and follow instructions... Show up on time, don't be afraid to get dirty and try to find the best and easiest way to do the job...Work to your potential, keep a straight face and respect the elders of the job. Sound familiar??

  • Patrick W Maple posted at 11:38 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Pat Maple Posts: 1805

    msb: Stop talking out your grape seed...I picked tokays with my mother and brothers and there are still vineyards around for both wine and eathing...why do you think they were put in lub boxes in the first place. Have you ever picked any??

    There (were) are more (Okie) Hispanic kids out in the fields around Lodi sweating and making money to help their families than (rich) "city" kids who have everything handed to them (where have I heard that before?? Oh yeah..BO). Maybe those kids could teach the others a lesson about hard work. REALLY? My friends were the farmer's kids...and still are...people like the Van Warmerdams, Luizs, Van Exels, Shinns, Goehrings, Lucchesis, Sasakis, Shinamotos, Fujinakas,Greenmeyers, Cashs, Langs and hundreds of others would...I am POSITIVE...would beg to differ with you. As far as the rich city kids...most of them had jobs as well...mowing lawns, delivering papers, washing cars (we put on roofs) or what ever they could find. Again you prove your lack of knowledge, or at least stupidity.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 10:26 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Another ridiculous column from Dr. Bader. He twice mentions the "numb-nuts" in Sacramento with regard to child labor laws, but never states what the "numb-nuts" have proposed or are proposing regarding child labor.

    His examples of the so-called hard labor he did as a child are simplistic - who hasn't cut grass or picked strawberries or whatever to make a few dollars?

    There are more Hispanic kids out in the fields around Lodi sweating and making money to help their families than "city" kids who have everything handed to them. Maybe those kids could teach the others a lesson about hard work.

    And "lugs of Zinfandels?" Hasn't Lodi been known for Tokay grapes rather than Zinfandels? When I first came to Lodi, no one of any importance had anything other than the Tokay grapes that were sold to wineries like Gallo that made jug and box wines. Seems only in recent decades that Zinfandels have taken over, thus the "invention" of the Zinfest during the past 6 or 7.

    Dr. Bader should have stared at the ceiling a bit longer and produced a column worth reading.

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 6:34 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 470

    Yes, very good article. Do parents even give allowances anymore, with strings attached, like household chores? We were always given an allowance, but only after completing our chores every Satruday morning. We had a board in the house with everyone's duties so there was no question as to who was doing what, and it changed every week so no one was stuck doing the same tasks every week. It instilled a great work ethic in us and we felt really good because we had EARNED our spending money. We had little savings accounts, or Christmas clubs also, where we would put our little contribution in every week. Do parents even do that kind of thing anymore? It seems they just shell out money every time the child needs (or wants) something.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:09 am on Wed, May 23, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Couldn't agree more. Children miss out on working opportunities that would without doubt improve the quality of their lives. The current child labor laws are destructive and has a negative impact on society in general.

    No one is suggesting slave labor and sweatshops. Developing a work ethic and having responsibilities should be the minimum for each child. Great article! Thank you.


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