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 		 [In this op-ed, writer Kim Kelly explains the history behind child
labor laws following a report that the Trump administration’s
Department of Labor is considering rolling them back.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 WHY IT MATTERS THAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS REPORTEDLY TRYING TO
LOOSEN CHILD LABOR LAWS  
[https://portside.org/2018-05-28/why-it-matters-trump-administration-reportedly-trying-loosen-child-labor-laws]


 

 Kim Kelly 
 May 15, 2018
Teen Vogue
[https://www.teenvogue.com/story/trump-administration-child-labor-laws]


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 _ In this op-ed, writer Kim Kelly explains the history behind child
labor laws following a report that the Trump administration’s
Department of Labor is considering rolling them back. _ 

 , 54962 Buyenlarge 

 

President Donald Trump [http://www.teenvogue.com/tag/donald-trump]'s
administration is breaking new ground in its war on the
[https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2017/11/29/how-the-gop-tax-plan-scrooges-middle-class-retired-and-poor/]
working
[https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-11/trump-s-china-trade-war-won-t-help-american-workers]
class
[https://www.thenation.com/article/trump-is-working-overtime-to-make-life-harder-for-the-working-class/]
with a new effort to deregulate child labor. _Bloomberg Law_ reported
[https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/trump-administration-wants-to-train-teens-in-hazardous-jobs]
that according to “sources familiar with the situation,” a new
proposal from the Department of Labor would loosen a host of workplace
regulations, including what’s known as the Hazardous Occupations
Orders, which protects workers between the ages of 16 and 18 from long
hours and prohibits
[https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/trump-administration-wants-to-train-teens-in-hazardous-jobs]
them from receiving extended training in fields with heavy machinery
and manufacturing that may put lives in danger.

Under this reported new plan, which _Bloomberg Law_ also obtained
[https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/trump-administration-wants-to-train-teens-in-hazardous-jobs]
in the form of a drafted regulation to corroborate their sources, a
16-year-old in an apprenticeship program would legally be able to
operate a chainsaw or take a roofing job — occupations that are
hazardous for adults, let alone children. A Department of Labor
spokesperson declined to comment or confirm the proposal to _Bloomberg
Law_.

_Teen Vogue_ reached out to the Department of Labor for comment. They
responded with a link to their regulatory agenda report published this
spring
[https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201804&RIN=1235-AA22],
entitled “Expanding Apprenticeship and Employment Opportunities for
16- and 17-Year-Olds Under the FLSA,” along with their youth
employment resources [https://www.youthrules.gov/] for their Wage and
Hour Division [https://www.dol.gov/whd/cl/youthemployment-faq.htm].

As _Bloomberg Law_ notes
[https://www.salon.com/2018/05/08/trump-administration-seeking-to-lift-teen-labor-protections-report/],
optimists hope the relaxed regulations will spur job creation by
allowing more young workers to enter the workplace unencumbered by
safety regulations. But these regulations have a history, and it's
dangerous to destroy them.

THESE PROTECTIONS WERE PUT IN PLACE BECAUSE CHILDREN HAVE BEEN
SUBJECTED TO DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS WORKING CONDITIONS.

In 1906, a young coal miner named Frank had his photograph
[https://mashable.com/2015/10/05/child-miners/#9MVMDyrUzOqw] taken by
Lewis Hine [http://iphf.org/inductees/lewis-hine/], a New York City
schoolteacher and sociologist. A three-year veteran of the West
Virginia mines at age 14, Frank had to be hospitalized for a year
after his leg was crushed by a coal car
[https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/10/kids-coal-mines-lewis-hines-photos/].
At the time, it was perfectly legal for him to have been there. He
wasn’t alone: Some of Frank’s coworkers may have been as young as
eight [https://arlweb.msha.gov/century/little/page1.asp].

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, child workers in the matchstick
industry spent up to 16 hours a day toiling in cramped factories,
breathing in white phosphorus used to make the match tips flammable.
Many of them were struck with a affliction known as “phossy jaw”
due to the fumes. Sufferers dealt with
[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18940506] serious dental issues
until, ultimately, their teeth fell out, their jaws rotted away, and
their exposed jawbones glowed in the dark
[https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-terrifyingly-specific-phenomenon-that-makes-your-ja-506308553].

In bygone days, children in the U.S. toiled in factories, mills,
sweatshops, farms, and mines; now, many are still out in the fields
[https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/us/family-farms-child-workers.html]
or roaming construction sites
[https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/how-common-is-chid-labor-in-the-us/383687/].
The types of labor may have changed, but the need to protect our
youngest workers remains. Decades after crooked railroad bosses, cruel
factory owners, and evil coal barons reigned supreme, children’s
safety is once again under attack.

IMPACTFUL POLICY WAS THE REASON CHILDREN RECEIVED PROTECTION FROM
THESE CONDITIONS..

Eighty years ago, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
(FLSA), effectively barring “oppressive child labor
[https://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/flsa1938.htm].” The FLSA
also bars children under the age of 16 from holding non-agricultural
jobs and disallows teens aged 16-18 from “hazardous employment”
that could be proven to be potentially detrimental to their health or
well-being. It wasn’t a perfect piece of legislation — Southern
senators figured out ways to bend its rules
[https://rewire.news/article/2013/06/26/race-and-the-fair-labor-standards-act-75-years-later-vestiges-of-racism-persist/]
to allow them to exploit black children — but it was better than
nothing, and could have saved countless children like Frank from being
injured or killed on the job.

However, in 2018, children in the U.S., as well as children in many
other countries around the world from Zimbabwe
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/04/05/bitter-harvest/child-labor-and-human-rights-abuses-tobacco-farms-zimbabwe]
to Denmark
[https://www.thelocal.dk/20160218/19-children-trafficked-to-denmark-for-prostitution-theft-forced-labour]
to China
[https://www.ft.com/content/bf01de70-cea6-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc].
Some still toil in the same horrific conditions their predecessors
faced in the bad old days before child labor was acknowledged to be an
issue.

Among the most important protections for young workers was the
“hazardous employment” clause. But now — thanks to Trump and his
crusade
[https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/business/under-trump-worker-protections-are-viewed-with-new-skepticism.html]
to cut worker protections — regulations intended to protect 16- and
17-year-olds from the dangers of working in unsafe conditions could be
under immediate threat. According to the Department of Labor website
[https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/youthlabor/hazardousjobs], the FLSA
“prohibits minors under 18 years old” from engaging in occupations
like excavation, manufacturing explosives, mining, and operating many
types of power-driven equipment.

Under Trump’s proposed plan, those safety-minded regulations could
be lifted. The infamous head of the Environmental Protection Agency,
Scott Pruitt [https://www.teenvogue.com/tag/scott-pruitt], also made
headlines earlier this year for his plot
[https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/14/us-senators-urge-epa-keep-protecting-kids-pesticides]
to roll back federal standards that protect children under 18 from
being exposed to toxic pesticides at work — something that would
disproportionately affect children working on farms, many of whom are
immigrants or undocumented
[http://nfwm.org/education-center/farm-worker-issues/children-in-the-fields/]
and who are already exempt from many labor regulations thanks to
FLSA’s less stringent rules for farm workers
[https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/childlabor102.pdf].

DESTROYING THESE LABOR LAWS WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON KIDS WHO
NEED TO WORK, WHETHER IT’S TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES OR THEIR FAMILIES.

Consider an example of how this bright idea would be detrimental for a
working class 17-year-old with a part-time job at a deli that helps
supplement their family’s income. Under the current FLSA regulations
[https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs2a.pdf], this teen would
not be allowed to work a meat slicer because it’s deemed to be too
dangerous. But without FLSA restrictions, the deli’s boss could send
a young employee to the meat counter.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics [https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat08.htm]
indicates that there were 244,000 16- and 17-year-olds with full-time
employment in 2017 and another 1.6 million employed part-time. Data
sorted by industry [https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat18b.htm] includes
18- and 19-year-olds, but shows that millions of young people
participate in industries like agriculture, construction, and
manufacturing.

The reasons teens seek employment vary, but a 2015 study
[https://www.urban.org/research/publication/dropping-out-and-clocking]
from the Urban Institute drawing on data from the American Community
Survey between 2008 and 2012 found an alamring rate of 16- to
18-year-olds
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/16/an-alarming-number-of-teenagers-are-quitting-school-to-work-heres-how-to-help-them/?utm_term=.14be66cc9fa9]
had dropped out of school in order to work full time, with 60% of them
contributing more than 10% to their families’ incomes.

The unspoken impact of the kind of regulation-slashing scheme the
Trump administration reportedly championed in its proposal is that, of
course, poor and working-class kids will suffer the most because
they’re the ones who need to seek work and take available jobs, even
if they involve heavy machinery, construction, or manufacturing.

Everyone deserves well-regulated, safe workplaces, not hazardous job
sites where they face dangers before they’re old enough to vote.
Deregulating child labor is a new low in Trump's prolonged assault on
the American worker, and cutting these necessary protections could
endanger young workers for the sake of bolstering his monosyllabic
enthusiasm for “jobs, jobs, jobs!” History has shown us how
working in dangerous conditions has ruined or stolen both futures and
lives. It begs the question: How much is a paycheck really worth?

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