A recent economics report is setting off an alarm about children in America in the workforce. It says that across the country, states are trying to weaken child labor laws.
The headline from the Economic Policy Institute says "child labor laws are under attack." And, that violations of the current laws are rising.
The report reads that they’re seeing child labor law violations in meatpacking and manufacturing jobs. These states, it says, want this low wage labor and so are trying to weaken state laws coming in contradiction with federal protections.
There has been a 37 percent increase in child labor law violations in the last year alone. At least 10 states, just in the last two years, have introduced or passed legislation to roll back child protections. Children from poverty, children of color, and immigrant children are the most vulnerable.
In a February report, the US Department of Labor noted that it’s investigating meatpacking facilities owned by Cargill, Tyson and JBS. Labor investigators said that children between the ages of 13 and 17 were working overnight, some cleaning sharp saws or sustaining injuries like chemical burns. Per the report, they’re also investigating Hyundai-Kia facilities in Alabama for employing migrant children.
Here’s a look at what a few states are doing. In Arkansas, the governor signed a bill allowing 14-year-olds to bypass parent consent to work. In Nebraska, bills introduced aim to lower the state’s minimum wage for many teens. In New Jersey, the law was changed to put off a teen worker’s break from five hours to six.
Watchdogs says these are not isolated events but rather a coordinated effort by certain industries.
Georgia is not as one of the 10 states actively changing or attempting law changes. In a 2021 federal report, it said that Georgia had made advancements in eliminating the worst cases of child labor law violations.