Florida House Republicans have advanced a bill in the Florida legislature that removes child labor protections for 16- and 17-year-olds. HB 49, would allow teens to work longer hours per day and per week and be given fewer mandatory break periods during work hours.
The bill passed along party line.
Business groups, especially the tourism industry, are backing the bill saying it would “help alleviate the labor shortage in the Florida hospitality industry.” But opponents, including labor unions, say teens would be harmed by the bill.
Republican Rep. Linda Chaney sponsored the bill and has made it clear that she doesn’t think 16- and 17-year-olds need protecting. In comments to the House, Chaney told lawmakers that “this bill is not about children, this bill is about teenagers. They’re 16- and 17-years-old. They’re driving cars. They are not children. This is not child labor.”
But Ellen Baker, teacher from Palm Beach County, worries about the implications of the bill on children’s education. Baker, speaking as an opponent of the bill said, “I see kids falling asleep with the laws we have now. This is so emotional for me because I see this every day, and I think it’s going to get so much worse.”
The bill has cleared two House committees and has one more before being placed before the full House chamber. A Senate companion bill, SB 1596, has not yet moved forward in that chamber.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Florida is the 16th state to propose legislation to ease child labor restrictions.
Emails obtained by the non-profit media outlet, More Perfect Union, show that a right-wing think tank, the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is behind the Florida legislation, as well as legislation in other states. More Perfect Union obtained public records, including emails and text messages, which it posted to its Substack page (https://substack.perfectunion.us/p/a-billionaire-megadonor-is-behind) between Rep. Chaney and FGA lobbyists.
The group says the Florida bill is part of a “nationwide campaign led by the FGA to roll back longstanding state-level child labor protections.”