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State Child Labor Legislation

03/12/2023

Despite the Packers Sanitation Services scandal and an ongoing investigation of the possibility of trafficking of minors, the Iowa legislature is considering a series of bills that would legalize employment of minors.  Children under the age of 18 would be ineligible for employment in meat-packing or rendering plants or be placed in locations where they would be required to operate potentially dangerous machinery.

 

Employment of minors is viewed as a partial solution to availability of labor but provisions of proposed laws could lead to exploitation.  Bills under consideration would exempt employers from civil liability if a child is injured or undergoes harm attributed to negligence on the part of the employer.  Penalties for noncompliance would be capped at $10,000 per infringement.

 

Arkansas has enacted the Youth hiring Act of 2023 that generally weakens protection for underage workers. Those under 16 years of age no longer require permission from the State Department of Labor following certification of age, parental permission and a description of intended work. Relaxation of oversight could lead to exploitation and trafficking.

 

The proposed child labor bills have engendered criticism and opposition from parent groups and predictably unions.

 

If Charles Dickens were still alive he would be able to write on the consequences of recent child labor bills.