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The Amish and work rules: a Labor Department reply Your March 2 editorial ("Accommodating the Amish") charges that the US Department of Labor's enforcement of this nation's child labor laws impinges on the constitutional and religious rights of the Amish. We disagree.

Federal child labor laws are intended to protect all young workers, including Amish youths, from unsafe and unhealthy work environments. Tragically, some 210,000 youths are injured on the job each year. The wood-processing industry has an occupational fatality rate nearly five times higher than the national private-industry average. Amish youths are not immune to such danger.

This issue arose not, as you assert, from competitor complaints, but because the Department of Labor seeks to promote child labor compliance in industries with high injury rates. In 1996 and 1997, the department's Wage and Hour Division undertook an enforcement initiative in western Pennsylvania in several of these high-injury industries. Religious affiliation was never, and never should be, considered in selecting employers for investigation. Only three of the nine sawmills cited for violations were Amish-owned. The children of all families and all faiths have the right to be protected from hazardous conditions in the world of work. Bernard E. Anderson Washington Assistant secretary for employment standards, US Department of Labor China's shadow over Hong Kong Two March 12 articles ("Hong Kong's rules rule, for now" and "Loopholes leave room for China") rightly assert that the loopholes in Hong Kong's Basic Law ensure that, should conflicts arise between the mainland's communism and Hong Kong's capitalism, under "one country, two systems," it is the mainland's that rules. This "remote" possibility casts a long shadow over Hong Kong's future. According to the Basic Law, the "high degrees of autonomy" that are "granted" to Hong Kong are subject to the final interpretation of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) - a rubber stamp for the Communist Party's power, not a government representative of the people's will. …


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