Not enough workers? Well, sure, we could pay more. Or we could open the doors to the millions of immigrants who wish to come and work here. But instead, Republicans are going toward their more favored choice–legalizing child labor.
Legislators in Iowa and Minnesota introduced bills in January to loosen child labor law regulations around age and workplace safety protections in some of the country’s most dangerous workplaces. Minnesota’s bill would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs. The Iowa measure would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work certain jobs in meatpacking plants.
The Iowa bill, introduced by state Sen. Jason Schultz (R), would permit children as young as 14 to work in industrial freezers and meat coolers, provided they are separate from where meat is prepared, and work in industrial laundry.
At 15, they would be able to work as lifeguards and swimming instructors, perform light assembly-line work after obtaining a waiver from state officials, and load and unload up to 50 pounds of products from vehicles and store shelves with a waiver “depending on the strength and ability of the fifteen-year-old.”
The Iowa proposal would also expand hours teenagers can work during the school year, and would shield businesses from civil liability if a youth worker is sickened, injured or killed on the job.
Schultz did not respond to requests for comment. Critics say the proposal is dangerous and would subject child workers to hazardous environments.
Of course the important language is that making it effectively legal for businesses to kill a kid on the job. Now there’s ideal Republican policy in action!