The Washington state House voted 91-7 Wednesday to exempt junior hockey teams from teen labor laws by expressly classifying the players as non-employees.
The four for-profit Western Hockey League teams in Washington, the Spokane Chiefs, Seattle Thunderbirds, Tri-City Americans and Everett Silvertips are currently being investigated for possible minimum wage, overtime or teen work hour violations.
Republican State Representative Drew MacEwen told his fellow lawmakers their vote could keep junior hockey "alive" in the state.
"This will help preserve amateur athletes in various sports -- not just hockey -- to be able to pursue those dreams and be in compliance with Washington state law,” he said.
No one spoke against the labor law exemption during the state House debate, but afterwards an unofficial players union for junior hockey (@CHLPA2015) tweeted:
The legislation now goes back to the state Senate for further consideration. The Washington Senate took the league's side the first time the issue came up in their chamber.
The Western Hockey League and its member teams face a separate lawsuit filed in Alberta seeking back wages, unpaid overtime and vacation pay allegedly due to current and former players. That proposed international class action also turns on whether the teenage players should be classified as student athletes or employees.