The GOP is pushing child labor bills in several states, that would expose children to hazardous and dangerous working conditions.
“Lawmakers in several states are embracing legislation to let children work in more hazardous occupations, for more hours on school nights and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14.
The efforts to significantly roll back labor rules are largely led by Republican lawmakers to address worker shortages and, in some cases, run afoul of federal regulations.
Child welfare advocates worry the measures represent a coordinated push to scale back hard-won protections for minors.
‘The consequences are potentially disastrous,’ said Reid Maki, director of the Child Labor Coalition, which advocates against exploitative labor policies. ‘You can’t balance a perceived labor shortage on the backs of teen workers.’
Lawmakers proposed loosening child labor laws in at least 10 states over the past two years, according to a report published last month by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Some bills became law, while others were withdrawn or vetoed.
Legislators in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa are actively considering relaxing child labor laws to address worker shortages, which are driving up wages and contributing to inflation. Employers have struggled to fill open positions after a spike in retirements, deaths and illnesses from COVID-19, decreases in legal immigration and other factors.
The job market is one of the tightest since World War II, with the unemployment rate at 3.4% — the lowest in 54 years.
Bringing more children into the labor market is, of course, not the only way to solve the problem. Economists point to several other strategies the country can employ to alleviate the labor crunch without asking kids to work more hours or in dangerous settings.
The most obvious is allowing more legal immigration, which is politically divisive but has been a cornerstone of the country’s ability to grow for years in the face of an aging population. Other strategies could include incentivizing older workers to delay retirement, expanding opportunities for formerly incarcerated people and making child-care more affordable, so that parents have greater flexibility to work.
In Wisconsin, lawmakers are backing a proposal to allow 14-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. If it passed, Wisconsin would have the lowest such limit nationwide, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.”
For the rest of the story, visit the Associated Press.