One of the recent outrages from government comes from a
winery. Bill and Jill Smyth are
closing the doors of their small operation – Westover Winery – after getting
So what crime or violation did they commit? Were they selling wine that was
dangerous to drink? Were they
selling wine under a false label?
Were they selling to minors?
Was there a safety hazard in their workplace?
No – it was none of those things. They are being fined $115,000 because they committed the
horrible act of allowing volunteers to work in their winery.
Yes, that is right.
The Smyth family owes a six-figure fine and is being forced to shut its
doors because it is not paying the minimum wage to people helping out.
It should come as no surprise that this is coming from the
left coast of California, one of the least business friendly states in the
U.S. The winery was issued a
citation in July for not paying workers the minimum wage and the associated
insurance premiums and taxes. The
citation and fine came without a warning being issued first.
One state official said, “People should be paid for their
labor. The workers’ compensation
violations are very serious. What
happens if someone has a catastrophic injury at the winery?”
We can be sure that the government officials are looking out
for the best interest of the volunteers and do not selflessly care about
getting tax money or exerting power over others.
Minimum Wage, Maximum
The state officials are missing a key point in all of this
and that is the word “volunteer”.
The people working at the winery were not being forced to do it. They wanted to do it, even though they
weren’t getting paid.
This is a small winery that is only open 10 hours per week
and which profits about $11,000 per year.
But some people wanted to work there, even for no wages. They were excited about the opportunity
to learn about making wine and operating a business. One volunteer said he dreams of opening up a winery one day,
so this was a great learning opportunity for him.
Isn’t this the same as an internship? Why do people do internships that are
unpaid? They do them to learn and
to gain experience. They can
potentially lead to employment and business opportunities that do pay.
But the Department of Industrial Relations in California
does not like any volunteering in a for-profit business. If you are going to volunteer, it
should be for something that “serves” the people, such as the government.
These bureaucrats really have nothing else to do but to make
the lives of other people miserable.
They are putting the owners out of business, they are wrecking the
opportunity of volunteers to learn about something that interests them, and
they are denying customers the chance to buy wine from this place.
In addition, other wineries have taken note of what
happened. Any wineries with
volunteers are quickly letting them go.
They do not want to experience the same fate.
It actually amazes me that there are any businesses left in
the state of California. As long
as there is not widespread outrage over stories like this, then the
anti-business policies will likely continue.
If vineyards were more common in Texas and Florida, then
many of these wineries would probably be moving there by now.