As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Florida has become the 16th U.S. State to roll back workplace protection laws for children with a proposed Republican bill. It would remove all work guidelines for 16- and 17-year-olds, eliminating the prohibition to work more than eight hours on school nights and over 30 hours a week throughout the school year. Furthermore, local authorities would be prevented from passing stricter laws.
While Florida’s State Rep. Linda Chaney intends for the bill to “provide teenagers with the flexibility to work whatever hours they deem fits best with their schedule and financial goals,” experts warn that it could aggravate graduation rates and harm lower-income families.
Furthermore, the rolling back of child labor laws is tied to the crackdown on undocumented workers in Florida. With Gov. Ron DeSantis having signed an anti-illegal immigration law earlier this year, businesses are required to screen their employers’ immigration status thoroughly. This, in addition to COVID-19, has led to a labor shortage, which is now set to be filled with children, an action heavily criticized by experts.
“We should be welcoming immigrants who are adults, who wish to contribute to our community and put food on our plates, not replace them with children. All of our kids deserve the right to quality education […], but this policy would set them up for exploitation.” – State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
Child labor laws were first implemented in the early 1900s to protect children from hazardous work, for example, in cigar factories and agriculture.
“We know that certain jobs have proven dangerous and even fatal more often for youth and teens. That’s why those restrictions were put in place decades ago.” – Jennifer Sherer, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network at the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute.
However, rising violations have been found in the last five years, such as children working night shifts or being employed in poultry processing plants and construction sites – unsafe workplaces for children. On top of that, the number of States rolling back the laws is increasing, taking the U.S. back over a decade in time.
We will not let this happen without a fight. That’s why we are calling on U.S. states to repeal recent that weaken child labor protections. Join us in urging lawmakers to end their complicity in exploiting children in the United States!