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The Child Labor Party



Above: The Dream of the Republican Party

Virginia Republicans double down on their commitment to child labor at the same time that it moves the official policy of the national GOP:

In an unrecorded party-line vote, House Republicans killed a bill Tuesday evening that would have cracked down on child labor at tobacco farms in Virginia. Two Democrats on the panel voted against killing the bill, although they were unable to persuade the Republican majority on a House Commerce and Labor subcommittee that children should not work with toxic chemicals on farms that grow a substance packaged with a warming from the surgeon general.

“If this was your kid, would you be OK with having them work in this job?” asked Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49). “Would you? I don’t think you would. So why is it OK for kids you don’t know to do this job?”

Republicans answered that question with silence. None of them responded when Lopez made the issue personal, although the Arlington delegate explained that the issue is very personal for the 141 kids interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 2014. Those interviews led to a report titled “Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in US Tobacco Farming.” That report led to some startling conclusions, none of which have been able to move Republicans in the General Assembly so far.

“Child tobacco workers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia often experienced nausea and vomiting while cutting stalks of burley tobacco during the harvest,” the report noted. “Jacob S., a 14-year-old tobacco worker in Virginia, described similar symptoms. ‘I get a little bit queasy, and I get lightheaded and dizzy. Sometimes I feel like I might pass out. It just feels like I want to fall over.’”

Kids getting dizzy from tobacco poisoning? If you are a Republican, this is a feature, not a bug. If you need more information on child labor in American tobacco, Human Rights Watch issued a report on this issue a couple of years ago, which is what gave it greater attention, not that Republicans care.

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  • Warren Terra

    There’s an issue here that’s clearly presented in the linked report but I think is worth repeating because we normally hear of exposure to pesticides and the like: they’re talking about the danger that comes with working with tobacco plants, from the plants themselves. At high concentrations nicotine is a potent neurotoxin, and it’s active through the skin – no ingestion or inhalation required. These kids, who aren’t old enough to legally buy tobacco products or vape nicotine at more moderate doses, are getting acutely poisoned by exposure to high concentrations of nicotine in the workplace.

    • Attezz

      The catalyst for me quitting smoking was when I once accidentally flicked a cigarette into the bird bath in my backyard. The very next day there was a bird belly up in the bird bath.

    • ΧΤΠΔ

      I actually first heard about this issue on the Daily Show a few years back (although the segment was on North Carolina, not Virginia).

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Yes, and that segment gave another hint as to why the GOP doesn’t give a flying fuck: Mexican (or Mexican-American, or Central American, or Central-American-American) children.

    • These kids, who aren’t old enough to legally buy tobacco products or vape nicotine at more moderate doses, are getting acutely poisoned by exposure to high concentrations of nicotine in the workplace.

      Yes, but if the poor kids didn’t want to get tobacco poisoning, they’d go work somewhere else, right? Besides, poor kids are a dime a dozen, so who cares if they get sick. They should work harder to pull those bootstraps.

      • libarbarian

        Did their parents vote for Trump?

        • Good question!

          • MPAVictoria

            Bad fucking question.

            • Warren Terra

              Leaving aside the immigration status of these child laborers and their families, the question of whether their parents supported Trump really must be asked carefully, so as not to give the impression it’s OK to punish children for their parents’ moral idiocy.

              • DrDick


            • Nichole


      • alexceres

        Well soon we won’t even have to pay for their medical care and they’ll die off cheap. This labor plan could compete favorably against robotics and automation on a cost basis!

        Republicans. Are. Evil.

  • so-in-so

    Several of the GOP, including Gingrich, have been all on-board with re instituting child labor since at least 2008, probably forever. Of course, they frame it as “giving teenagers the chance to help their families…” but they envision a return to ca 1900 child labor practices.

    They really are worse than comic villains, most of who have some grand goal beyond making more money at the expense of people they supposedly represent.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    It’s all kosher as long as there’s somebody around with a rifle to stay vigilant for grizzly bear attacks.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      But wait, upthread we learned that the nicotine in tobacco is a potent neurotoxin. And didn’t Megan McArdle suggest that kids rush mass shooters after Newtown? Putting it all together, I think there needs to be one specially trained “bait” kid who wraps himself in tobacco leaves, charges the grizzly and is ultimately consumed. The grizzly dies, there’s no need to bury the kid, and the grizzly itself is a source of the next day’s rations. If the “bait” kid is simply the one that picked the least tobacco the day before, then it’s yet another way to keep the workforce alert and motivated.

    • PotemkinMetropolitanRegion

      It’s all kosher as long as there’s somebody around with a rifle to stay vigilant for [kids running off the job].”

  • Asteroid_Strike_Brexit

    Trump has saved America from the nightmare of regulation and minimal safety standards. He will bring forth a new golden era of workhouses, prisons more akin to Gulags (Stalin wasn’t all bad!), and children free to work themselves to death. Only a businessman knows how to solve America’s problems.

  • Shalimar

    You don’t understand. When we wall all the immigrant hispanics out of the country, who else but children can we rely on for farm and construction labor? It will teach them a better work ethic than today’s youth, if they survive workplace accidents.

  • rewenzo

    In other great Virginia news, a bill was introduced in the legislature to switch Virginia from the winner take all system of allocating electoral college votes to the bullshit “congressional district + 2 to the popular vote winner” system. One of the citizens testifying in favor of the bill literally said that rural western Virginia had been discriminated against for years because Northern Virginia was slightly more populous and by voting for Clinton, dominates the state.

    The VA legislature also rejected a bill to add Virginia to the NPV compact.

  • tomstickler

    Years ago when I lived in Kentucky, it was always thought humorous to tell stories of how someone fell off the top rail, passed out while housing tobacco.

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