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Iowa Passes Child Labor Bill In Predawn Darkness, Just Like A Teen Headed To A Roofing Job
Fine, overnights haven't been approved. Yet.
The Iowa state Senate stayed up all night so it could pass a very important law expanding child labor early Tuesday morning. The bill, Senate File 542 , was finally passed at about 5 a.m., just in time for legislators to go home and roust their teenaged sons and daughters out of bed to send them off to school, followed by up to six hours a day at a job once the law goes into effect (that's up from the current limit of four hours for kids under 16; 16- and 17-year-olds will be allowed to work full time).
The vote was 32 to 17, with two Republicans joining all the Democrats to vote "no." We'llassume that's because they were repelled by the legislation, not because they considered it too restrictive on businesses. (Actually, it's even weirder, as we'll see.)
Previously on Yr Wonkette:
If it's passed by the state House and signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, the law will allow kids aged 14 to 17 to work longer hours and to work in jobs that had up until now been prohibited for anyone under 18. It's not that the jobs got any less dangerous; the Republican majority in the state Senate simply decided it was high time to let ninth graders work in roofing, demolitions, and manufacturing plants as long as they're in a school or employer "training program."
Minors will be allowed to work until 9 p.m. during the school year, and until 11 p.m. during summers. Both of those are two hours later than currently allowed, although we won't be surprised if employers eventually convince legislators that working the midnight to eight shift is excellent preparation for all-nighters in college. Oh yes, and in another fun development, workers aged 16 and 17 will be allowed to serve alcohol in restaurants, but not in bars, as long as they have written permission from a parent or guardian.
You will no doubt be very relieved to know that Republicans in the Iowa Senate object very strenuously to media portrayals of the bill. State Sen. Adrian Dickey (R) was particularly insulted by a claim I haven't actually seen anyone making, which is that the bill would somehow legalize "slave labor" for teens. Most people — Yr Wonkette included — have compared the bill to the glorious Gilded Age days of robber barons , not to slavery. But hey, you go with the straw man you make up, not the comparison people are actually making.
“We do know slavery existed in the past, but one place it doesn’t exist, that’s in this bill,” Dickey said. “Throwing around such terms loosely and callously for shock value in the news, on social media, even within the walls of this great building, is irresponsible and wrong.”
We suppose it's understandable that Dickey might be confused a bit, since he and his colleagues are passing a noble law to allow legal, character-building child labor for Iowa's young people.
But it is not at all the same as the parallel scandal involving young undocumented migrants, who have in many cases been forced to work without wages. Totally different thing, since slave labor remains illegal. Glad we could clear that up, and we'll be doing a separate story on new developments in that horrorshow later.
Dickey also denied that the bill had anything to do with post-pandemic labor shortages, because how would anyone think such a thing, apart from nearly everyone who's discussed the efforts in several states to loosen child labor laws.
“I never even considered that to be an issue when this bill came in front of me,” Dickey said. “It simply is providing our youth an opportunity to earn and learn, at the same timeframe as his classmates do, while participating in sports and other fine arts.”
You see, it's really all about the ennobling life lessons one learns from working a job six hours a day or more while also going to high school, like learning how to nap on your feet and to slam down as many caffeine-laden energy drinks as you can during your breaks. ChatGPT can probably help with homework, too.
Even so, Minority Leader Zach Wahls (D) objected that the bill opens up some risky jobs that shouldn't really be considered for "trainees," pointing out that
[e]xcavation and demolition work is extremely dangerous for adult workers, and roofers have a fatality rate almost 10 times higher than the average American worker, Wahls said.
“No Iowa teenager should be working in America’s deadliest jobs,” Wahls said. “… Republicans are going to say this bill is about giving Iowa youth more opportunities to join the workforce, but allowing kids into these potentially dangerous workplace settings shows Iowans the truth, this bill puts Iowa children in danger.”
Just to add a note of late-late-late show surrealism to the debate, state Sen. Charlie McClintock (R), one of the two Republicans who voted against the bill, said that supporting a labor rules bill that might put young people in danger went against his belief that children must be protected from making bad decisions, and oh Crom you can see where he's going with that. McClintock said that since he's 100 percent in favor of Iowa's new law banning gender-affirming medical care for trans young people, he similarly wants to "protect" kids who
really don’t have the the wisdom at that age or the experience in life to make some of those decisions,” McClintock said. “So we as lawmakers have to intervene and try to guide them or look out for them and pass laws to do that. And so, if we’re going to do that — and I’m going to vote for things like that — it just seems that how can I now support a bill that would potentially put those same kids into unsafe work environments?”
We can only conclude that other Republicans were fine with endangering young people at work, just as they're fine with the higher risk of suicide among trans adolescents denied gender-affirming care. Jesus.
There are at least a couple of improvements over the initial version of the bill: Under the revised version, teens who are injured on the job will be eligible to get benefits under worker's compensation.That hadn't been allowed under the earlier version, because if you're in an educational program you certainly won't be injured. Learning isn't dangerous, silly. The Senate also removed a provision that would have allowed workers 14 and older to get a special permit to drive to work; that'll now be studied by a committee established in the bill. The Des Moines Register notes that Iowa currently lets kids get a special permit at 14 and a half to drive to school.
But not, we assume, to drag shows.
[ Iowa Capital Dispatch / Des Moines Register / Photo by Lewis Hine, Library of Congress. Original caption: "Rosy, an eight-year-old oyster shucker who works steady all day from about 3: 00 A.M. to about 5 P.M. in Dunbar Cannery. The baby will shuck as soon as she can handle the knife. Location: Dunbar, Louisiana."]
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