State Senate votes to give labor law exemption to Western Hockey League teams

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a measure that exempts players in the Western Hockey League from state labor laws.

Senate Bill 5893 passed after being amended on the floor. The original bill was much broader, seeking an exemption for all amateur athletes.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

In a hearing last month, officials from the state's WHL teams and the league office said the Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs, Tri-City Americans and Everett Silvertips might have to leave or shut down if state law isn't changed.

The teams are currently under investigation for child labor practices after a complaint was filed over working conditions for their players, who range in age from 16 to 20 years old and play a 72-game regular season.

Under current law, if the players are considered employees, they are subject to state laws governing minimum wage and working conditions, including child labor laws.