Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores — the country’s 4th largest pizza chain — is asking the Iowa legislature to let 16 and 17 year olds man the machines that roll out the pizza dough.
“Casey’s, like any other employer across the state of Iowa, we’re really struggling in finding employees,” Tom Cope, a lobbyist for Casey’s, said during a Senate subcommittee hearing Monday afternoon.
Cope said unlike surrounding states like Illinois and Missouri, current Iowa law bars anyone under the age of 18 from operating a pizza dough rolling machine.
“We make the dough fresh every day at the store. It’s not a frozen dough,” Cope said. “And so the way it works is we have a ball of dough and (for) each pizza that’s ordered, that dough has to go through a rolling machine before it then can be made into a pizza.”
The Senate subcommittee approved the bill that adopts federal guidelines, so 16 and 17-year-olds would be able to operate pizza dough machines in Iowa. Senator Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who was a member of the panel, said as long as minors aren’t allowed to do maintenance on the machines, which could be dangerous, he’ll support the move.
“I think that’s all we need to do and it’s a win-win, you know, kids make pizza all over this state,” Taylor said, “but we want them to be safe.”
Peter Hird, a lobbyist for the Iowa Federation of Labor, said unions aren’t opposing the attempt to add older teenagers to Casey’s pizza-making enterprise, but Hird questioned whether increasing child labor is the best way to address Iowa’s workforce shortage.
“We do really worry about bringing more kids into the workforce,” he said during the subcommittee hearing. “Are we protecting them during these years, too?”
He cited last year’s vote in the legislature to let 16 and 17 year olds operate the rides at Iowa amusement parks as well as legislation proposed this year that would no longer require adult supervision of older teens working in child care facilities.