Seattle - September 22, 1999 - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced a lawsuit has been filed against several candy peddlers for violating state child labor laws and coaching children to falsely claim the proceeds from the door-to-door sales are used to support youth programs.
"These are not charities providing drug and crime prevention programs for children," said Gregoire. "These are individuals exploiting children to sell candy for a profit."
A lawsuit was filed in King County against Paridon Paul (Perry) Williams, Seattle, and Tyval (William) Tate, Tacoma, who operate Youth In Progress and Team USA. The lawsuit alleges children as young as 11 were recruited to sell candy and other novelty items door-to-door and in front of stores and are often left on their own for hours, unsupervised in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
The children are not part of an organized youth program, but are paid for each item they sell, often as much as $1.50 for each $6 box of candy. Some are trained to show pre-printed cards to consumers that state, "our main goal is to keep teens busy by providing supervised activities after school and on weekends," or tell people they are associated with a youth program. Children selling for Youth in Progress often told consumers the money would go to support Boys and Girls Clubs located in the Kent, Federal Way and Tacoma areas.
"These children are often dumped in neighborhoods, some as far away as Portland, and left on their own," said Gregoire. "Parents of these children are sometimes duped as well, believing their children are adequately supervised and participating in a charitable operation."
The lawsuits allege state labor laws are being violated. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the minimum age children can work in this state without a court order is 14 for non-agricultural labor.Child labor laws also require a supervising adult be in contact with the child every 15 minutes.
The suits were not the first actions taken in recent months against firms using children to sell candy. In August Nicholas Clay Coles and Suzanne Capek, who did business as Tomorrow’s Leaders in Snohomish County, signed a consent decree agreeing to follow state labor laws and to stop claiming the children selling the items are doing so to support a legitimate youth program. If the terms are violated the defendants are liable to pay $20,000 in civil penalties. Christopher Spice, who operated Teens in Action out of Pierce County, signed a similar consent decree in July and has reportedly gone out of business.
Children selling candy and other items are frequent visitors in many neighborhoods throughout Washington, said Gregoire. She recommends people follow these tips to help with their decision whether to buy.
- Be cautious of children selling something on behalf of a charity. Ask questions about the organization. Ask to see literature. Children selling candy for legitimate groups usually have literature or a product that has a familiar insignia, or the child has a recognizable uniform. Legitimate charities make sure the children are provided with information to answer questions about the charity.
- Ask the children if they receive any money from the sale of the products. Charitable organizations usually do not pay children for their sales efforts, but some will give special awards for large sales amounts.
- Ask to see the minor’s Washington State Department of Labor and Industries identification card. If they don’t have one, don’t buy. Employers who hire minors to sell door to door who don’t register with the state are breaking the law.
- Read the small print on any organization products. Look to see if any printed material or product contains a disclaimer, "this is not meant to benefit any particular group or organization."
- Ask the children if there is an adult who is supervising them, where that adult is, and if they have a way to contact them.
- Beware of organizations that have children selling products at your door during unreasonable hours, i.e. before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
If you have a concern about a group selling door to door in your community, contact your local authorities, the local Labor and Industries office, or the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-551-4636.