Indiana GOP Lawmaker Can't Wait To Make Child Labor Great Again
Indiana state Senator Chip Perfect has a dream. He also the name of a cartoon rich kid villain, but that is beside the point. His dream is to get rid of several laws governing child labor in his state, so that teenagers can be free to work long and late hours without breaks.
Currently, in Indiana, 14- and 15-year-olds can only work up to 18 hours a week, and 16- and 17-year-olds can only work 30 hours a week. If they want to work more than that, or if they'd like to work late hours, they need to get permission from their parents. Which sucks, because parents just don't understand! Also, if they work six hours in a row, they are entitled to a 30-minute break.
Now, this may seem completely reasonable to you, a person who thinks it probably makes sense for a high school freshman to not be working full time and thinks they should probably have enough time to eat if they are working for six hours -- but you, unlike Chip Perfect over here, do not own a ski resort that employs hundreds of minors, do you?
Now, there are some people -- ethics professors and the like -- who think this just might be a conflict of interest for ol' Chip (I'm sorry, I cannot bring myself to call him Perfect). That he just might be sponsoring this bill because it is something that would help his business. Perfect's ski resort, of course, stays open until midnight, but it is absolutely the sheerest of coincidences that he thinks it would be good for teenagers to be able to work that late without the consent of their parents.
Via Washington Post:
"My concern is: Does their business interest undermine their ability to fulfill their responsibility to their constituents?" said Abe Schwab, an ethics expert and philosophy professor at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind. "Their judgment isn't supposed to be one that represents themselves. . . . If they sponsor legislation that clearly favors themselves, then there's reason to worry that their judgment has been compromised."
However, the state legislature held a hearing and decided that there was no conflict of interest here, and that it didn't matter if the bill would benefit his business or not. Which, actually, is the policy of Indiana's state legislature anyway. Laws in the state do not prevent legislators from sponsoring bills that would personally benefit them financially.
Perfect, who owns Perfect North Slope in his district in southeastern Indiana, said in a statement that he had requested the Senate Ethics Committee to rule on whether a conflict of interest exists. All members, Republicans and Democrats, found it doesn't, Perfect said, though he didn't explain why. He said he also consulted with the former chairman of the committee when he began thinking about sponsoring the bill and was told there was no conflict of interest.
It is fair to say that the kind of person who would support a bill like this is probably gross enough to support it whether or not it benefits them. The bill would also get rid of the need for work permits, which, according to the Post, is one of the "regulations that those who favor the legislation saw as antiquated." Because child labor is, of course, very modern and forward-thinking.
This is hardly the first time a Republican has spoken fondly of child labor -- as you may recall, Newt Gingrich once came up with the fabulously Dickensian idea of "letting" children work as janitors in their own schools, and yet somehow could not get anyone else on board with the idea:
"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid," Gingrich said. "Saying to people you shouldn't go to work before you're 14, 16. You're totally poor, you're in a school that's failing with a teacher that's failing."
"I tried for years to have a very simple model. These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they'd have cash; they'd have pride in the schools. They'd begin the process of rising."
Who among us does not look back fondly to the days when children labored in coal mines and in factories and think "Ah yes, grit and bootstraps!" Why, to this day, in Somalia, 39.8% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. Kids in Bangladesh get to work in garment factories all day long! Why should they have all the fun?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse