Undocumented Workers: 19 Kids and Other Reality TV Children Part 1

Image by propinqua
Image by propinqua

by Propinqua

The Duggar fantasy mega-house was largely funded by Discovery Networks and built by donated labor that Discovery rounded up. Sponsors even helped to stock the food pantry. By implying that one patriarch’s income can support a multitude in fine style, the house stands as Arkansas’ very own evangelical Potemkin village.

Until recently, the Duggar house has been one more thing not often discussed: a workplace for adults and children. The TV network’s role in building the compound and the Duggar brand makes this fact almost inescapable.

Almost.

Incredibly, the state of Arkansas has not viewed the Duggar franchise as a business concern. The Duggarnaut apparently escaped the notice of every state official responsible for workplaces.

Enter child rights advocate Paul Petersen, who fights to end the exploitation of child entertainers. On reality TV shows, children have less protection than other child performers—and even animals. State by state and show by show, Petersen and the organization he founded, A Minor Consideration, are pressuring lawmakers to safeguard children like the young Duggars. Link: http://aminorconsideration.org/

Petersen founded A Minor Consideration in 1991, in response to the suicides of several former child stars. As a former Mouseketeer and lead performer on “The Donna Reed Show,” Petersen has a flinty-eyed view of the exploitation of children in entertainment. When the Josh Duggar scandal broke, Petersen challenged Arkansas officials to produce records about the location where years’ worth of movies and TV shows have been produced. He describes the state’s reaction as “the Duggar two-step: duck and cover.” Link: https://www.facebook.com/minorcon

“Apparently this dance is affecting all of Arkansas,” Petersen wrote on his organization’s Facebook page on July 2. “State officials deny any culpability in monitoring this production… in fact they say they have no paperwork at all. No set visits. No work permits. No employment contracts… nothing. Do you suppose they even know what the payroll is for this show? What’s the economic impact on the local economy? Seems to me a similarly sized company would have to file a lot of paperwork to satisfy our ravenous government. But all we hear is ‘Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.’”

On the Facebook page of A Minor Consideration, a poster named Irene Smith posted an image of the state’s June 15 response to her request for an investigation. Link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=981518975203241&set=p.981518975203241&type=1&theater The letter to Smith from Lindsay Moore, Labor Standards Manager, states in part, “…the Arkansas Department of Labor (“ADL”) is not privy to the Duggar family’s production contract, nor would ADL have any reason to be privy to it since there has been no fact-based complaint upon which ADL could base an investigation. As a result, ADL will take no action on your inquiry.”

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Propinqua is the Latin word for neighboring or nearby (singular feminine adjective). It is used in law and philosophy, and in the scientific names of plants and animals, such as the native bee Osmia lignaria propinqua.

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