State lawmakers in ten states have introduced or passed laws rolling back child labor protections amid a skyrocketing increase in child labor law violations.
A report from the Economic Policy Institute found that “attempts to weaken state-level child labor standards are part of a coordinated campaign backed by industry groups intent on eventually diluting federal standards that cover the whole country.”
One company, Packers Sanitation Services, Inc., was found to have illegally employed over 100 children between 13 and 17, putting them “on overnight shifts cleaning razor-sharp saws and other high-risk equipment on slaughterhouse kill floors.”
Citing a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, EPI states that at least three of the children suffered injuries, “including burns from caustic cleaning chemicals.”
States where child labor protections have been rolled back include Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
As EPI notes, Iowa’s proposed law is particularly extreme. It “proposed lifting restrictions on hazardous work to allow children as young as 14 to work in meat coolers and industrial laundries, teens as young as 15 to work on assembly lines, and 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol, among a long list of changes.”
Many of these workers are migrant children who aren’t being adequately protected.
EPI’s recommendations include fixing the “broken” immigration system and supporting the PRO Act, which would keep private-sector employers from “perpetually stalling union elections and contract negotiations and coerce and intimidate workers seeking to unionize.” EPI also recommends enhancing penalties for companies that violate the rules.