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Washington Lawmakers Consider Exempting Amateur Athletes From Labor Laws

Keenen Brown
File photo of goalie Ty Rimmer of the Tri-City Americans.


Washington lawmakers are considering whether to exempt amateur athletes from state labor laws.

The move comes as Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams remain under investigation for possible child labor violations.

The Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett Silvertips, Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs play in the “top rung” of amateur hockey. The players are 16 to 20 year olds who don’t get paid, but they do get a stipend, free room and board and qualify for college scholarships.

Silvertips president Gary Gelinas urged a panel of lawmakers to adopt legislation that would exempt amateur athletes from the Minimum Wage Act and other workplace protection laws.

“This issue is so significant that it would negatively impact our ability to stay and operate in the state of Washington,” he said.

No one testified against the measure. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries said its child labor investigation into the Western Hockey League remains open. There is no time frame for its completion.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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