Tag: child labor
Ron DeSantis

Florida Republicans Seeking A Return To Full-Time Child Labor

Florida has the nation’s worst learning rate. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that in a state where dictionaries get banned from libraries and teachers get fired for using a gender-neutral pronoun, students go home with 12% less knowledge than the national average. However, Florida students are being protected from classical art and exposure to potentially gay Disney characters. So … thank you, Ron DeSantis.

But Republicans have a way to make sure that students no longer are forced to suffer through an inadequate Florida education. It’s called full-time labor during the school year. Also, the bill would reduce the number of mandatory breaks given to young workers. Because f**k those lazy kids who want a drink of water or to go to the bathroom. Learn to hold it, losers.

“Employers consider the entry level work of teens like jobs in hospitality, grocery, and retail to be ‘invisible curriculum,’” said Republican Rep. Linda Chaney, who introduced the legislation. So far as Florida Republicans are concerned, kids don’t need history, math, or science. They need to get into the real world and learn real lessons. Like how impossible it is to find a decent job when you don’t know any history, math, or science.

Florida is one of an astonishing 16 states that have introduced legislation to roll back child labor protections in the past two years. The bill introduced in Florida is trying to destroy limits that were put in place in 1913. Florida is legitimately trying to allow child labor at a level not seen since before World War I.

But according to Chaney, we’re not really talking about kids.

“This bill is not about children, this bill is about teenagers,” she said. “They’re 16 and 17 years old. They’re driving cars. They are not children. This is not child labor.”

Those people back in 1913 who wrote legislation that prohibited Florida employers from scheduling 16- and 17-year-olds for more than eight hours on school nights or more than 30 hours a week during the school year seemed to think teenagers were children. Or at least, not fully adult. How are Republicans ever going to make Florida great again if they can't make things worse than they were over a century ago?

Even the existing limits seem like an impossible burden for any student. Working a 30-hour week while attending full-time classes as a high school sophomore seems only a bit short of the backstory for a Dickens character.

“I think we’re wrapping our kids in bubble wrap here,” said Republican Rep. Jeff Holcomb.

Yes. Only allowing eight hours of work on a school day is coddling. Surely Holcomb did more than that when he was a kid and had to walk to school in snow, uphill both ways, back when Florida had snow. And hills.

Except he didn’t. Because there was a law. There was a law that protected every single one of the Florida legislators now trying to strip protection from children. Excuse me, teenagers.

The Florida bill, like this one from Indiana and those introduced in several other states, is a clone of proposed legislation drafted by a right-wing think tank funded by billionaire Dick Uihlein. Uihlein, who has a net worth north of $5 billion, is the money man behind multiple right-wing bill factories.

Uihlein didn’t exactly work his way up from the bottom. He’s an heir to the Schlitz brewing company and the owner of what he claims is the largest “shipping supply” company in the nation. In other words, the man owns a lot of cardboard.

That he’s getting good service in Florida is no surprise. He provided $1 million to Ron DeSantis’ campaign and another $1.4 million to his super PAC. Uihlein’s wife gave DeSantis another $1.5 million. Uilein’s name may not be all that familiar, but according to Forbes he and his wife are the fourth-largest contributors to political campaigns, with total contributions over $190 million.

Even the money wasted on DeSantis could be a good investment if Uihlein gets what he seems to want in return: cheap labor.

Ready access to cheap labor has been threatened by Republican policies making it hard to hire migrant laborers who formerly provided labor in agriculture, construction, and tourism. Now Republicans seem to be turning to treating America’s children as an alternative source of low-wage labor.

Opponents of the bill in Florida have correctly pointed out that the legislation, as written, has no barriers that would protect young workers' right to continue in school. Employers could require work during the school day, forcing kids to choose between attending class or keeping their jobs. They could also require kids to stay for overtime on a school night.

But Republicans might not see that as a problem. After all, polls have shown that the more educated people become, the more likely they are to hold progressive views on issues. People with a postgraduate degree are more than twice as likely to consider themselves liberal than those whose education never went beyond high school.

What better way to ensure that never happens than by stopping those kids from ever getting through high school in the first place? This is what it looks like when the billionaire barons buy themselves a class of permanent serfs.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Julie Su

Why Workers Are Demanding Julie Su For Labor Secretary

It wasn’t enough for owners of lucrative Southern California car washes to cheat their workers out of wages and overtime.

They made workers pay for the towels they used to clean cars, denied them rest breaks, forced them to toil in filthy water that bred foot fungus, and even required the so-called “carwasheros” to hand-wash vehicles with skin-burning solvents.

Outraged members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 675 launched an effort to help these workers about a dozen years ago, just as the state’s new labor commissioner, Julie Su, kicked off her own battle against the state’s shadow economy.

In a one-two punch that still reverberates through the industry, the USW empowered carwasheros at the negotiating table while Su ramped up enforcement of labor laws, pursued millions in back wages, and filed criminal charges against unscrupulous bosses.

Given this and other fights Su waged on behalf of ordinary people, it’s no surprise that workers across the country are demanding her confirmation as the next U.S. secretary of labor. President Joe Biden nominated Su for the Cabinet post on February 28, but the Senate has yet to vote.

The labor secretary enforces workers’ rights along with federal wage, overtime, and child labor laws. The nation’s top labor cop also fights discrimination, oversees workplace safety agencies, administers pension security programs, and polices employer compliance with shutdown and layoff rules.

To truly make a difference, however, the secretary needs the ardor for working people and impatience for change that define Su’s career.

“It’s one thing to be a policy person. It’s another to connect with people on an emotional level,” said David Campbell, secretary-treasurer of Local 675, recalling not only the skill but the passion and tenacity that Su brought to the fight for car wash workers.

The multi-million industry preyed on recent immigrants, the homeless, and other vulnerable people, said Campbell, noting one “was paid with the privilege of sleeping in the car wash bathroom at night.”

“The car washes knew there was a special enforcement program going on with the labor commissioner. So that made them—at least some of them—more amenable to collective bargaining agreements,” which increased wages, improved working conditions, and gave workers a voice, explained Campbell, whose local worked with several community partners on the initiative.

Su tirelessly helps workers build better lives.

In the 1990s, as a 26-year-old attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Su helped 72 Thai workers start over after federal agents freed them from a garment sweatshop in El Monte, Calif., where they were imprisoned by barbed wire, watched by armed guards and paid by the cent.

Su won $4 million in back wages and legal protections for the workers. But she recalled being most gratified by how “the workers stood up, learned they had power, and, against all odds, defied the message they had heard their whole lives—that they should keep their heads down and know their place.”

After her appointment as California labor commissioner in 2011, Su fought not only for the carwasheros but for poorly paid workers who cleaned buildings, harvested crops, and performed other essential yet largely invisible tasks in the state’s underground economy.

She also stepped up to tackle other pressing issues, such as vigorously enforcing a California law requiring health care facilities to develop customized violence-prevention plans to protect workers like the thousands of USW members who work in hospitals and other medical settings.

And Su helped implement a law protecting workers whom unscrupulous employers deliberately misclassified as contractors so they could skimp on wages, benefits and workplace safety. That work spoke not only to Su’s drive to help workers but to her long-held conviction about the need to provide a “level playing field for honest employers to prosper and thrive.”

“Julie Su was able to greenlight important issues rather than let them founder in an uncaring bureaucracy,” observed Campbell, noting that low wages and poor working conditions for some workers drag everyone down in the long run.

“The obvious move is to raise the floor, and that’s what we should do,” noting that unions and labor enforcers have a “common interest” to protect workers and fuel the economy.

Biden tapped Su to be deputy labor secretary, the department’s No. 2 position in 2021, and then nominated her for the top role upon Secretary Marty Walsh’s departure last winter. The USW, along with dozens of unions, social justice groups, and other organizations, quickly sent senators a letter urging Su’s confirmation because of her record of accomplishments and ability to confront current challenges.

Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, she helped employers and dock workers negotiate a tentative contract that keeps West Coast seaports—and America’s economy—operating. Her work on that case drew praise from both union workers and the Pacific Maritime Association, a trade group.

Americans need Su to watch their backs more than ever, especially as a growing number of workers join unions on the heels of the pandemic and advocates push for a national version of the California law protecting health care workers.

“If she asked me to knock on doors for her, I’d be out there knocking,” said David Simmons, a member of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) from Pasadena, Calif., explaining his eagerness to build support for Su’s nomination.

Simmons, who worked on the car wash initiative, remembers not only Su’s commitment to the workers but how she galvanized her entire agency to a mission that previous labor commissioners neglected.

“I think she’d make a great secretary of labor,” he said.

Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

What's The Big New Republican Idea? Bring Back Child Labor

What's The Big New Republican Idea? Bring Back Child Labor

I have to concede one point: Today's far-right Republican party does not discriminate against women. In fact, the GOP is giving its female political buffoons a higher profile than its male bozos.

Consider Sarah Huckabee Sanders, governor of Arkansas, who became a star in the new Republican crusade to bring back child labor abuse. Pushed by their corporate backers, GOP governors and lawmakers exclaim that the answer to America's so-called "labor shortage" is not to make jobs more attractive, but to fill them with cheap, compliant children.

Huckabee Sanders rushed to the aid of these corporate powers, eliminating a bothersome Arkansas law that required Tyson, Walmart and other big employers to get a special state permit to put any child under 16 to work. "The meddling hand of big government creeping down from Washington, D.C.," she bellowed, "will be stopped cold... We will get the overregulating, micromanaging, bureaucratic tyrants off your backs."

So, she is using the meddling hand of big state government to creep into the lives of vulnerable children. She is not alone. Ohio's Republican-controlled state government is moving to extend the number of hours bosses can make children work; Iowa wants to let 14-year-olds work in industrial freezers and laundries; and Republicans in Congress have shrunk the number of investigators and lawyers policing child labor abuse, so abusive corporate managers know there is little chance they'll be caught.

Most damning, these corporate politicians value children so little that they've set the maximum fine for violating the workplace safety of minors at $15,138 per child. For multimillion-dollar conglomerates, that devaluation makes it much cheaper to endanger children than protect them.

America should not even be talking about child safety rules in dangerous workplaces — it's shameful to have any children working there.

One Idea For Actually Stopping Child Labor Abuse

With new outrages erupting every day, I find some comfort in knowing that We the People have at least eliminated certain particularly ugly plutocratic abuses. Child labor, for example — outlawed in 1938, right?

Well, outlawed, yes; stopped, no. Recent reports reveal that thousands of children, ages 12 to 17, are toiling illegally at dangerous jobs, in manufacturing, construction, food processing, etc. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with teenagers working — they help their families, gain experience or just earn a few bucks. Indeed, I worked part-time throughout my high school and college years, and while I did gripe some, overall, it was positive.

So, this is not about children working — it's about corporate child abuse, plain and simple. For example, last year Packers Sanitation Services was caught "employing oppressive child labor" in meatpacking plants to clean saws, head splitters and other butchering machines. In a typical incident, one 13-year-old was badly burned by the caustic cleaning chemicals they used during long night shifts — which ran from 11 p.m. to at least 5 a.m.!

Once caught, top executives of Packers Sanitation tried to sanitize their reputation by proclaiming they have "zero tolerance for any violation" of child labor laws. Oh? Ask that 13-year-old. These executives would be comical, except they're completely disgusting and morally repugnant. Yet our worker protection laws are so weak that Packers' multiple violations, involving 102 children in this one case, resulted in a fine of... $1.5 million.

That's not even peanuts for this nationwide giant, which is owned by Blackstone, the trillion-dollar Wall Street hucksters run by well-manicured executives who pretend they know nothing about the children they endanger for profit.

How about we make a few of the teenage children and grandchildren of the Blackstone profiteers work some midnight shifts cleaning meat-cutting machinery? I'm guessing they would stop the abuse overnight.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Bad Old Days: Now Republicans Want To Bring Back Child Labor

Bad Old Days: Now Republicans Want To Bring Back Child Labor

When songwriters Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager penned “Everything Old Is New Again” decades ago, I wonder if they could have imagined the jaunty, oft-covered tune would one day be turned into a blueprint for some very dangerous doings.

In 2023, turning to the past to find solutions for present challenges is taking the country down roads far darker than the song’s images of mellow trumpets, Bacardi cocktails and “dancin’ at your Long Island Jazz Age parties.”

Today, those glancing “backward when forward fails,” as a verse explains, have landed on child labor and Jim Crow — not exactly the good old days. And the citizens of every age whose lives could be turned upside down don’t feel like singing.

In Iowa and Minnesota, bills working their way through the system float an idea that was abandoned when even the cruelest among Americans couldn’t stomach policies that permitted children to toil in sweatshops and on assembly lines, stealing time from education that might have led to brighter futures. Some of the work could possibly endanger their lives.

But what’s a country to do when there is need — the need for low-income families to earn more money and for businesses to fill hiring goals? Something once thought repugnant can look pretty seductive if the alternative, trying to level the playing field with empathetic policy, is out of the question. So, why not reach back to a time when inequality was the point, tolerated by those who benefited and ignored by those who didn’t feel the pain?

And by jobs, I’m not talking about babysitting or scooping ice cream.

“Legislators in Iowa and Minnesota introduced bills in January to loosen child labor law regulations around age and workplace safety protections in some of the country’s most dangerous workplaces,” The Washington Post reported. “Minnesota’s bill would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs. The Iowa measure would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work certain jobs in meatpacking plants.”

What could go wrong? Well, the Labor Department has been taking an interest, with investigations already looking into how much industry is or is not protecting younger workers.

Those actions haven’t stopped other states from exploring ways to loosen regulations.

Such work will predictably affect poor Americans more than most. I hardly think wealthy kids would choose working in a meatpacking plant over an internship in a chosen field. Such internships or jobs with little or no pay have been nonstarters for a young person who has to help the family pay the bills.

And, in this country, with its persistent racial wealth gaps, minorities might no doubt disproportionately be the ones working longer hours in more dangerous jobs.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work. At a young age, my grandfather toiled on oyster boats off the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a job so tough that the move to the big city of Baltimore and the life of a longshoreman on the docks were an improvement. But in his time, he had fewer options. Young people today certainly do not, and shouldn’t be too broke to exercise them.

Considering America’s history, it’s no surprise that minorities might be the first to feel any rollback of rights. In Mississippi, separate and unequal seems the reason for changes in the court and criminal justice systems, changes that have Jim Crow written all over them.

“A white supermajority of the Mississippi House,” reported Mississippi Today, “voted after an intense, four-plus hour debate to create a separate court system and an expanded police force within the city of Jackson — the Blackest city in America — that would be appointed completely by white state officials.” State Rep. Edward Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton, Miss., referenced a state Constitution that removed voting rights from Black Mississippi citizens when he said during the debate, “This is just like the 1890 Constitution all over again. … We are doing exactly what they said they were doing back then: ‘Helping those people because they can’t govern themselves.’”

This is a state where districts are so gerrymandered that bills can sail through the legislature with the votes of its white GOP members, and not a single Democratic one. With the state’s history of citizens attending separate schools and churches, of living in separate neighborhoods, of treating its Black citizens as children who need to be controlled, the proposed bill looks less like a return to the past than business as usual.

That’s the problem with fond longing for a rosy past that never was. It ignores the reality of those who survived only because of the hope of a brighter, safer, more equitable future.

Thankfully, there have always been Americans who remember “then,” fighting to make America great “now.” It’s why attempts to roll back everything from LGBTQ rights to any fully accurate history taught to schoolchildren will meet resistance.

Still, I am reminded of a line in that song that I admit I will never hum so cluelessly again, a line that those kicking and screaming to halt progress hold onto with a tight grip: “And don’t throw the past away / You might need it some rainy day.”

For those for whom the past is bliss, it’s pouring.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the dangers of child labor?

A. Child labor can harm children physically and mentally, deprive them of education and opportunities for advancement, and contribute to the cycle of poverty.

Q. What can be done to prevent the resurgence of child labor?

A. Advocacy and education are key to preventing the resurgence of child labor, including supporting laws that protect children, raising awareness, and providing resources for education and job training.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

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