The issue of child labor in the United States seems to be only just warming up, as the U.S. Department of Labor releases some startling statistics in the middle of the investigation it has been carrying out across the Nation, with a special emphasis on the South.
According to a statement the DOL released about a month ago, “...violations of child labor laws [are] up 69 percent since 2018.” In addition, in the two year period between 2020-2022, nearly $3 million in penalties have been assessed by the department, specifically in the Southeast.
“[Child labor has been] a running thread throughout the show for the last several months,” said host Jacob Morrison on a live broadcast of The Valley Labor Report earlier this month, referring to TVLR’s extensive coverage of the “child labor epidemic” in the States since it was first brought to our attention almost a year ago that minors were being illegally employed — and operating dangerous machinery — by a factory in Alabama that supplies vehicle parts to Hyundai. “Child labor has just been rampant, not only through the South, but I mean through the country as well.”
“We saw that, in Iowa, they just passed a bill to allow 14 year olds to work in coal mines,” Jacob continued, clearly (and understandably) alarmed, referring to a bill that was submitted within the Iowa Legislature earlier this year, entitled SF 167. “It’s just amazing that this kind of stuff is happening today.”
Jacob went on to read the DOL’s statement on the air. “‘Millions of minor-aged workers [have] joined the U.S. workforce each year,’ now that’s not millions of minor-aged workers working illegally,” Jacob clarified. “Some of those are in seasonal summer jobs and restaurant, retail, and amusement industries. And that is, and has always been, legal… So, when you hear people trying to justify child labor, and loosening child labor laws, by saying: ‘Oh, I had a summer job and it didn’t hurt me,’ uhh, yeah, okay, that’s true, and they can still do that. 16 year olds can still work at the ice cream shop, with proper parental consent.”
The “loosening” of child labor laws mentioned by Jacob is indeed a reality that we are seeing take shape in “red states.” There has been a growing effort by Republican lawmakers, who seem suddenly strangely emboldened, to submit bills and amendments which seek to broaden employment restrictions when it comes to age, in effect allowing for younger individuals who otherwise would be considered a minor by state laws as they currently stand to seek employment free of legal violations.
It seems fitting to me to take this moment as an opportunity to remind our readers that there has also been growing interest by Republican lawmakers across the Nation in raising the age of retirement, meaning there is a desire to broaden the parameters on both ends.
“The loosening of these [child labor] restrictions are allowing children to work later on school nights, to allow children to work more than eight hours in a day over the summer,” Jacob continued on the air. “In Arkansas, one of the laws… allowed children to work without a parental consent form!” (In Arkansas this past March, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law HB1410, the so-called “Youth Hiring Act of 2023,” which has loosened parental consent requirements for young workers)
It is clear that we’ve only just seen the beginning of this child labor epidemic in the United States, with Republican lawmakers and bosses alike laying the blame on the working class’s growing rebellion over the last couple of years against the employment abuse, wage theft, and severe work-life imbalances that our culture has both enabled and encouraged for far too long. Their answer to this situation is, unsurprisingly, not introspection and considering that maybe the workers are right, maybe the system has indeed become far too abusive. Instead their answer… is child labor.
Watch Jacob and Adam’s full reaction to the U.S. Department of Labor’s statement on YouTube: