Florida is hot on the heels of other red states in the race to erase labor protections for children. The Republican-sponsored bill to allow kids as young as 16 to work full-time jobs cleared another hurdle Tuesday, when it passed the state’s House Commerce Committee, clearing it to go to the floor.
In discussing the bill, state Rep. Kevin Steele said that “we’ve been weakening our society” and the fix for that is to “change your youth, the youth, out there to have them start working full-time.” For real:
The legislation rolls back labor protections for 16- and 17-year-olds, allowing bosses to schedule them to work more than 30 hours per week—which the IRS considers full-time employment—and more than eight hours per day on school nights. It also ends state protections that require employers to give breaks to minors working for them. Worse still, it ends restrictions on work hours for kids 16 and older who have dropped out of school.
But Florida isn’t an anomaly. A national effort is underway to ease child labor laws, backed by ultraconservative billionaire Richard Uihlein. A think tank he’s funding, the Foundation for Government Accountability, essentially wrote the Florida bill. The FGA was also behind the rollback of child labor protection in Arkansas, where Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders sold it as a parents’-rights effort, with her office saying it lifted an “arbitrary burden on parents” requiring they give their permission “for their child to get a job.” And the FGA got a bill passed in Iowa that would allow teens to serve alcohol and work in manufacturing jobs they were previously barred from for safety reasons.
The FGA’s cause has inspired other states to loosen child labor laws as well. In New Hampshire, a new law lets 14- and 15-year-olds work in establishments that serve alcohol and increases the hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work. And the movement is pushing bills in Wisconsin, Indiana and a handful of other states.
Putting children to work is part and parcel of Republicans’ so-called “pro-life” attitude. Remember that in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote about a decreasing “domestic supply of infants”? It’s not about saving babies. It’s about securing a source of future cheap labor.
Is there anything more iconic in American politics than the whistle-stop tour? Author Edward Segal joins us on this week’s episode of “The Downballot” to discuss his new book unearthing the storied history of campaigning by train. Segal takes us through nearly two centuries of rail campaigns, from early pioneers like Abraham Lincoln to the great popularizer of whistle-stop touring William Jennings Bryan all the way up to “Amtrak Joe” Biden. Along the way, learn how politicians’ trains were actually deployed, lessons for today’s campaigners, and the surprising era Segal identifies as the heyday for these tours.