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S1300 - Repeal Child Labor Law

NO, this Bill is NOT good for Idaho's 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 unconscionable.

(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. Investigative journalism:

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