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Updated February 12th, 2023 at 00:16 IST

US child labour protections under red threat as Republicans attempt rollback

The US saw a 37% rise in child labour law violations in 2022. This comes at a time Republicans are pushing reforms to rollback protections.

Reported by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
Edited by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
US
Image: AP | Image:self
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The United States saw a 37% rise in child labour law violations in 2022, The Guardian reported. This comes at a time Republicans are pushing reforms at state and federal levels to roll back several protections ensured under the labour laws. Lawmakers in different red states are eying to expand permissible work hours, broaden the type of jobs minors are permitted to perform and are even looking for ways to protect employers from any liabilities for injuries or sickness, Guardian reported. 

Last month, in Iowa, Republican lawmakers proposed a bill to expand the types of work the 14 and 15-year-olds will be permitted to perform. The legislators in Iowa also proposed to extend permissible working hours and reduce the liabilities of the employers. These attacks on the basic foundations of child labour laws in the country have attracted criticism from many. Charlie Wishman, the President of the Iowa Federation of Labour, AFL-CIO, called the move regressive. 

“It’s just crazy to me that we are re-litigating a lot of things that seem to have been settled 100, 120 or 140 years ago,” he said.

“All of these protections have been put in place for a reason. Child labour law is there to make sure that kids are working in age-appropriate work activities or occupations that are appropriate for their age. We think this is a rewrite of our child labour laws in Iowa that are going way, way, way too far and has the potential to put kids in dangerous situations,” he added.

According to The Guardian, similar concerns were also shared by Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

“In the Iowa legislation, one of the provisions is to exempt employers from civil liability due to the company’s negligence. It is astounding that they would have the gall to knowingly acknowledge that more young people will be harmed, but focus on exempting businesses,” she said. 

US states push for a rollback while figures show a different story

Iowa is not the only American state eying to relax the restriction in child Labour laws. The state of Ohio, another red state, reintroduced a bipartisan bill which aims to expand the working hours of 14 and 15-year-old minors.

In January 2023, Minnesota introduced a similar bil. States like Wisconsin, New Jersey, etc. also proposed similar pieces of legislation in their respective states.The advocates of the rollback cited "labour shortage" as a part of the reason for such a move. 

While different states are pushing for a rollback, the rise in instances of child labour violations in the country has become a matter of concern. Last year, the US Department of Labour stated that there has been a massive increase in child labour violations in the country since 2015.

“Since 2015, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has seen increases in child labour investigations and violations. In the fiscal year 2021, the division found 2,819 minors employed in violation of the law and assessed employers with nearly $3.4 million in civil money penalties,” the Department of Labour asserted in a statement.

Further, companies like Hyundai and Kia (supply chains in Alabama), McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle have been accused of child labour violations in the past. 

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Published February 12th, 2023 at 00:16 IST

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