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NO, this bill is NOT good for Idaho Children

Why it matters: Federal laws providing minimum protections for child labor were
enacted nearly a century ago, leading many to assume that children working in grueling
and/or dangerous jobs was a thing of the past. In fact, violations of child labor laws are
on the rise, as are attempts by state lawmakers to weaken the standards that protect
children in the workplace. S1300 will eliminate protections for children in Idaho and
that is not good.

(From the bill’s Statement of Purpose) Youth employment is currently hampered by a
legacy of restrictive regulation in Idaho. Other states like Iowa, Nebraska, and
Arkansas have passed legislation to liberate young adults to go to work and to build
the economic opportunity in their states’ tight labor markets.

Idaho’s laws protecting children from unfair labor practices, are reasonable, compliant
with updated federal laws, and protect children from unfair labor practices. The recent
legislation in other states has contributed to the abuse and deaths of young children.

In February 2023, The NY Times reporter Hannah Dreier interviewed over 100 migrant
children in 20 states, many from Central America. She found:

These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have
been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending
up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation
found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child
labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in
Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi, and
North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.

Elora Mukherjee, a clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School, says “The children
who are being exploited on a daily basis by meatpacking plants, in the construction
industry, and working with toxic chemicals, for example, need all the protections
possible. Frequently, these are children without parents who can meaningfully protect
them. This is particularly true of immigrant children who come to the United States
without a parent or primary caregiver.”

(From the bill’s Statement of Purpose) This bill will free workers to work at younger
ages, get employment in jobs currently restricted, and help employers get the workers
they need at lower costs.

Using child labor to address the workforce shortage, at a lower cost, in Idaho is

(From the bill’s Statement of Purpose) The bill will untie labor restrictions from public
education constraints because many young workers are home-schooled or attend
alternative education models that do not follow the traditional public education times
and days.

A child’s focus should be on getting an education, whether it be public, private, or
homeschooled. Granted, there are many benefits to children working – learning a work
ethic, earning extra cash, contributing to family expenses, building skills, etc. and there
is nothing wrong with young children working. However repealing child labor laws, will
harm children. Idaho’s high school graduation rate is one of the lowest in the nation,
and we should avoid legislating any policies that would encourage a student in any way
to NOT complete their high school education.

(From the bill’s Statement of Purpose) The bill, while prohibiting exploitation, will be
encouraging to any enterprising young kid who wants to work, and does so without
sacrificing basic education.

Removing any constraints on hours, conditions, and documentation of child workers
makes for a precarious situation for vulnerable children. Why would elected officials
put our most precious resource, children, in the line of harm and exploitation?

Trends in Child Labor Laws Across the Country
From the Economic Policy Institute

Both violations of child labor laws and proposals to roll back child labor protections are
on the rise across the country. The number of minors employed in violation of child labor
laws increased 37% in the last year and at least 10 states introduced or passed laws rolling
back child labor protections in the past two years.

Attempts to weaken state-level child labor standards are part of a coordinated campaign
backed by industry groups intent on eventually diluting federal standards that cover the
whole country.

Youth labor force participation declines over the past 20 years reflect that a steadily
growing share of young people are choosing to complete high school and obtain
additional education in order to increase their long-term employability and earnings.
Putting off work in order to obtain more skills and education is a positive trend—for
both individuals and the economy—not one that should be slowed or reversed.

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