In April, the Washington Post reported that Iowa lawmakers voted to roll back certain child labor protections passing a bill to allow children as young as 14 to work night shifts and allow 15-year-olds on assembly lines.
According to the Washington Post, the legislation, which still must pass the Iowa House, is among several the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is maneuvering through state legislatures.
In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed legislation that makes it easier for teens as young as 14 to work without obtaining a permit. The “Youth Hiring Act of 2023” would make it easier to get away with violating child labor laws and for predatory employers to take advantage of disadvantaged children. Joshua Price, deputy director of the immigrant advocacy group Arkansas United, told legislators that requiring the work permit forms made it easier for the government to hold violators accountable. He says the process is “an added layer of protection that makes it harder for an employer under investigation for hiring someone underage to claim ignorance.”
The sponsor of the Arkansas bill, state Representative Rebecca Burkes (R), said in a hearing that the legislation “came to me from the Foundation [for] Government Accountability.”
In Missouri, the FGA helped a lawmaker draft and revise legislation that again eliminates the requirement that students under the age of 16 apply for a work permit. As well, the legislation extends working hours for teens.
## **Georgia & South Dakota**
Georgia Republicans introduced then withdrew a bill that would eliminate work permits and South Dakota Republicans introduced a bill to extend working hours for children 14 and under, that too was withdrawn.
Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, in an attempt to justify legislation there said, “there’s valuable experience to be gained as teens work in business and learn communications skills, as well as the importance of showing up for a job on time. It, you know, teaches the kids a lot, and if they have the time to do it, and they want to earn some additional money, I don’t think we should, you know, discourage that.”
## **National **
At the national level, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., is pushing legislation to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act and allow 14 and 15-year-olds to work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. year-round, as well as allow up to 24 hours of work per week.
## **New Hampshire & New Jersey**
In 2022, New Hampshire and New Jersey both passed laws that would extend working hours for minors and lower the age for minors to serve alcohol.
The New Hampshire bill lowered the age limit for students to bus tables where alcohol is served from 15 to 14 and increases the hours most 16- and 17-year-olds can work when they’re in school.
In New Jersey, teens no longer need parental consent to obtain work permits, and 16- and 17-year-olds are allowed to work up to 50 hours a week — up to 10 hours a day — when they aren’t in school.
## **Wisconsin **
Legislation in Wisconsin to expand working hours for children as young as 14 was vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.
## **Nebraska **
Some state lawmakers are also proposing a sub-minimum wage that would allow children to be paid less than adults. In Nebraska, legislation that would pay 14-to-17-year-olds $9 per hour instead of the state’s minimum wage of $10.50 was introduced this year. That bill would also set a minimum training wage for employees between 18 and 20 at $9.25 per hour through 2023, and 75 percent of the regular minimum wage from 2027 on.
All of these state child labor law regulations are in stark contrast to the Biden administration’s crackdown on child labor violations.
In February, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services announced they would coordinate investigations and ensure the safety of migrant children.
This year, the DOL reports a 69 percent increase in children being employed illegally since 2018. In 2022, 835 companies employed more than 3,800 children illegally, the agency found.
## **Packers Sanitation Services Employed Minors as Young as 13**
One of the country’s largest food sanitation service providers, Packers Sanitation Services, was fined $1.5 million for illegally employing at least 102 children to clean 13 meat packing plants on overnight shifts, the Labor Department announced in February.
The company is said to have employed minors as young as 13 to use caustic chemicals to clean “razor-sharp” saws,” head splitters and other dangerous equipment at meatpacking facilities in eight states.
According to investigators, at least three children suffered injuries in recent months, including a chemical burn to the face, while sanitizing kill floors and other areas of the slaughterhouses in the middle of the night.
According to the DOL, child labor violations increased 37 percent between 2021 and 2022. And the number of children found to be working in hazardous occupations, such as meatpacking and construction, spiked 93 percent over the last seven years.
U.S. Senator Brian Shatz, D-HI, introduced a bill to establish criminal penalties and increase maximum fines for child labor violations. The bill has no Republican co-sponsors and is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House.