Iowa’s big business interests have been lobbying for and are getting an opportunity to loosen up some of those pesky child labor laws. A new state legislative bill, SF 167, filed by state Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) would give kids the opportunity to work in fields previously considered too dangerous or unhealthy for children. Most of these fields of work have long been considered risky for kids to work in precisely because they are jobs that are also dangerous and unhealthy for most adults.
Don’t worry everybody, the senator is not proposing that young teens work in a mine … unless they can get a waiver, of course! Yes, as long as 14- to 17-year-olds can get a waiver based on “participating in work-based learning or a school or employer-administered, work-related program,” they can pretty much do anything, reports the Des Moines Register. That sounds dangerous. No worries, because he’s added that any program that can get a waiver must have “adequate safety precautions.”
To make sure that all happens, the bill also makes sure to exempt all businesses from civil liability. Civil liability from what? Well, what if one of these kids gets sick or hurt because of the business’s “gross negligence or willful misconduct?” What encapsulates the conservative movement’s true ethos surrounding responsibility and accountability more than a big business that only has to say, “It’s the kid’s fault,” and they get off scot-free? So that sounds good, right? I mean good if you’re a demon who licks gold to stay alive.
State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) sounds like a real buzz-kill, telling the news that the lack of liability in this piece of legislation “offensive.” “Putting children at risk, and creating immunity for that risk, is not acceptable.” The bill would literally make students in work-based learning programs the only laborers in the state unable to collect worker’s compensation if they were injured while working. C’mon man, they’re kids, they’ll bounce back!
RELATED STORY: Rep. Jack Kingston still defending his child labor proposals
To be clear, Schultz’s bill is based on long-standing ideas in the Republican Party. All of these labor laws are tied to work done outside of a “family farm or business.” Iowa Starting Line has a nice list of the new labor the bill frees up for your kids:
- work in industrial freezers and meat coolers. Get some blood on your hands and therefore, blood in the game!
- load and unload “light” tools from vehicles. So … no unloading heavy tools, though the bill also says you can move 30 pounds. if you’re a kid laborer … which is pretty heavy for a “tool.”
- work in an industrial laundry. If you want to know about the industrial laundry industry, you can read about it here. It includes quotes from industrial laundry workers saying things like, “We would get blood and stuff on our hands. Some people got poked by needles.”
- detassling. This means corn farming.
- load and unload and stock shelves with items weighing up to 30 pounds (and up to 50 pounds with a waiver from the labor commissioner). What about the “tools”?
- perform light assembly work (with a waiver). Learn all about Henry Ford’s assembly line!
Only the smallest hands can get into the smallest cogs (H/T Hunter). In addition, the curfew time on work for children would be moved from 7 PM to 9 PM on school nights and from 9 PM up to 11 PM during the summer; 17-year-olds would no longer need work permits and would be allowed to work the same hours as adults.
In even cooler news, 16- and 17-year olds would be able to serve alcohol to people who are drinking on work premises. Awesome! You would only need to get a letter from a parent in order to let you teen get their hands on some free booze!
Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO’s Charlie Wishman told Iowa Starting Line of the Schultz bill: “Not only is this ripping up at least 100 years of child labor law that this labor movement has worked for, it seriously puts children at risk on job sites without having any form of legal liability protection.”
If Republican Jason Schultz’s name rings a bell, that’s because he’s made some news over the years by saying and doing all of the things we have come to expect from the Republican Party. He’s the same Iowan who made his bones in the conservative movement when all you had to be was Islamophobic and willing to attack refugees.* In 2018, state Sen. Schultz tried to get legislation passed in the Hawkeye State that would require welfare recipients to both work and take drug tests. That’s some real meat-and-potatoes, conservative dirtbaggery.
Crazy/Stupid Republican of the Day: Jason Schultz- 2020 Update
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