Protections for U.S. Child Labor Need Improvement

After noting that Iowa and other states are reducing child-labor protections to 19th century levels while  U.S. child labor-law violations have been increasing,   a Washington Post editorial says “lawmakers and other leaders at the state and federal levels should increase [such protections].Children, including migrant youths, should be in school. . . . The Labor Department needs to step up enforcement, and Congress should increase fines for companies that hire children. The maximum fine is currently $15,000 per occurrence — a pittance. It’s also not enough to raid one factory. Often, a crackdown at one leads young workers to move to another nearby.”[1]

In addition, “the Health and Human Services Department is responsible for releasing migrant children from detention centers to “guardians” in the United States. It’s become clear that a growing number of children are not being released to relatives and are in danger of being trafficked. The HHS process needs to change. Mr. Biden can also step up enforcement of anti-trafficking laws already on the books.”

“Most of all, people who see wrongdoing should be empowered to speak up. Teachers, especially those in English language learner classrooms, can see which students are falling asleep in class because they worked all night, or notice when someone suddenly drops out. Religious leaders also are often on the front lines. Whistleblowers in the community require clear places to report child labor, and agencies that receive the warnings must follow up.”

“Nearly a century [after the adoption of the 1938 U.S. child-labor protections], it should not take more adolescent deaths for lawmakers to once again protect children from dangerous jobs.”


[1] Editorial, Children don’t belong in factories or freezers—or on construction sites, Wash. Post (April 22, 2023). See also Dreier, As Migrant Children Were Put to Work, U.S. Ignored Warnings, N.Y. Times (April 17, 2023). But see Krugman, How Immigrants Are Saving the Economy, N.Y. Times (April 13, 2023)  (“Recent immigrants are overwhelmingly working-age adults; according to census data, 79 percent of foreign-born residents who arrived after 2010 are between the ages of 18 and 64, compared with only 61 percent for the population at large. So the immigration surge has probably been a significant contributor to the economy’s ability to continue rapid job growth without runaway inflation.”).





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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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