Anchorage assembly member fined over child labor violations

An Anchorage Assembly member is facing fines for child labor violations at his comic book business. But the penalties are less about any malicious intent than clerical errors and a misunderstanding over the definition of a Dumpster.

The Labor Department investigated Bosco’s, a business specializing in comics and games, with locations in Spenard and South Anchorage. Bosco’s has been open since 1984, and is owned by South Anchorage assembly member John Weddleton.

In a release sent Thursday, investigators said they had turned up three separate violations. There were two instances of 15-year-old employees working longer than three hours and past 7 p.m. on school nights, and small discrepancies with records for over-time pay.

The last issue cited has to with restricting minors from operating industrial equipment, and a 15-years-old throwing away trash in what everyone assumed was a regular Dumpster behind the store’s Dimond Center location.

“Because it’s a compactor style, (it’s) considered a mechanical device,” Weddleton said by phone. “It’s just not something we paid attention to or noticed. Now we do, of course.”

Weddleton said normally he doesn’t even allow employees younger than 18 to vacuum the floor, in observation of the rule. The business generally has between 20 and 25 employees at a given time, almost all of whom are adults, according to Weddleton.

He’s agreed to pay $4,650 in civil fines, along with a $126 in overtime wages owed. But overall he believes the Labor Department’s audit of three years worth of business records found overwhelming compliance with state and federal rules.

“We run a good operation, and that was acknowledged by the auditor,” Weddleton said. “This is my first experience with this…in 34 years.”

He agrees that when auditors find a violation they should take action, even though he thinks the fines in this case are a bit high.

“But I don’t know what’s typical for these things. I just paid the fine, movin’ on.”

Weddleton was elected to the Assembly in April.

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