Washington State bill regarding WHL players being signed into law

Washington State governor Jay Inslee is scheduled to sign a bill that exempts WHL players from the state’s minimum wage and child labor regulations Monday afternoon.

Senate Bill 5893 would exempt WHLers from the state’s Minimum Wage Act and Industrial Welfare Act. It passed by a vote of 91-7 in the State House of Representatives and 47-1 in the State Senate. It affects the WHL’s four Washington-based teams: the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans.

The legislation grew out of a complaint filed with the State Department of Labor and Industry in September of 2013, in which an unnamed party alleges the WHL violates the state’s minimum wage and child labor laws. The complaint was later investigated by the Department of Labor and Industry.

The subject of player compensation, and whether junior hockey players should be categorized as amateur or professional, is a complicated one that’s currently being debated across Canada. WHL players are currently compensated with free room and board, a small monthly stipend, and one year of college paid for each year played in the league. Without the legislation, it’s possible Washington’s WHL teams would have to compensate their players more than the league’s other 18 teams, and it’s possible they’d be unable to field 16- and 17-year-old players.

Whether the compensation packages for players are adequate remains a legitimate question. But this will mean Washington’s WHL teams at least remain in the same boat with the rest of the league’s teams.

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