Giving Compass' Take:
- Tom Conway reports that some U.S. states are considering rolling back regulations designed to protect children from dangerous work.
- How can you work to protect children from dangerous and excessive work?
- Read about the role of philanthropy in advancing advocacy and policy work.
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Brad Greve has been a Scout leader for more than 20 years. The Davenport, Iowa retiree leads 50-mile canoe trips on Minnesota’s Boundary Waters that test teens’ mettle while teaching them essential skills.
Greve told a story recently where two boys, despite being warned repeatedly, let their canoe drift perilously close to a section of stream that swept over rapids into a lake below. They just barely recovered and made it to streambank.
That near-accident a few years ago, Greve said, underscores the vulnerability of young teens. And it fuels Greve’s anger at Republicans across the country who want to gut child labor laws and fill dangerous jobs with still-maturing high schoolers.
A GOP bill in Iowa, for example, would allow 14-year-olds to work in industrial freezers, meatpacking plants, and industrial laundry operations. The legislation would also put 15-year-olds to work on certain kinds of assembly lines, allow them to hoist up to 50 pounds, and allow employers to force kids into significantly longer work days.
In some cases, it would even permit young teens to work mining and construction jobs and use power-driven meat slicers and food choppers.
Make no mistake, this is dangerous work. Just three years ago, a 16-year-old in Tennessee fell more than 11 stories to his death while working construction on a hotel roof. Another 16-year-old lost an arm that same year while cleaning a meat grinder at a Tennessee supermarket.
But these preventable tragedies mean nothing to legislators bent on helping employers pad their bottom lines at kids’ expense. “It’s about businesses wanting cheap labor or more labor than they can currently get because they don’t want to pay reasonable wages or give any benefits,” Greve said.
COVID-19 prompted millions of Americans to ditch jobs lacking decent working conditions, sick leave, and affordable health care. The meatpacking industry, among many others, hemorrhaged workers after deliberately putting them at risk to protect profits during the pandemic.
Now, rather than provide the quality jobs needed to attract adults, Greve observed, companies want their cronies to “throw them a bone” and widen access to child labor.
Read the full article about child labor by Tom Conway at Inequality.org.