Allard: Jobs can be good for kids |

Allard: Jobs can be good for kids

Sarah S. Chung

Commenting on the recent controversy over underage workers at a local grocery store, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard noted that working on his family’s ranch at age 9 probably did him a world of good.

Early Wednesday morning at a town meeting in Snowmass Village, Allard fielded an eclectic assortment of questions from about 20 people on topics ranging from child-labor laws to national forests to immigration to technology.

But what seemed to particularly impress the meeting’s attendees was that the senator had done his homework and was familiar with the firing of local youths from the town grocery store last month.

Nine grocery baggers at The Village Market, ages 9 to 12, were fired for being under the legal age to work in a retail store.

Harking back to working in his family’s hayfields when he was in the fourth grade, Allard agreed that it may be time “to take a serious look” at making exceptions to the law. Pointing to the dual achievements of “taking pride in my work” and keeping out of mischief, Allard said his early work experience helped him “feel a sense of self-worth.”

On other topics, the senator advocated local control over a “top-down approach” on such issues as transportation and the revised White River National Forest plan.

In response to concerns about the level of immigration and population growth, Allard threw out a familiar response: immigrants fill jobs that “Americans won’t do.” But that didn’t fly with Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards, who questioned whether it’s “demeaning jobs” or “demeaning wages” that make those jobs unattractive to many.

“We’re artificially keeping an economy going on cheap labor which doesn’t allow a worker to move up or to support their family,” Richards said.

Rounding out the discussion was an assurance from Allard that small, rural communities won’t be left behind in an increasingly technological age.

Assuaging a concern that Internet and other technology-driven industries seem to focusing their attention and services on bigger cities, Allard told the gathering of a $600 million federal grant being discussed to subsidize high-tech services to rural communities.

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