Some state lawmakers across the United States and at least one member of Congress are challenging decades old child labor laws at the state and federal level. State child labor laws have been challenged in states like Maine and Missouri, and one Congressman has questioned the constitutionality of federal child labor laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While child labor laws in Wisconsin are not under threat, the recent activity shows a growing trend of hostility toward labor law.
Every state must meet the child labor standards set out in Fair Labor Standards Act. States are free to pass more stringent child labor laws than the Fair Labor Standards Act sets out. The state of Maine recently changed its child labor laws though mildly. Maine has a history of strict child labor laws and its recent changes still provide tougher rules than nearby states. Children in Maine can now work 24 hours per week and can work as late as 10:15 p.m. The previous limits were 20 hours per week and 10:00 p.m. In 1991, the previous restrictions were passed because teachers complained that students who worked were sleeping in class. A proposed law in Maine would have essentially reduced the minimum wage for workers under the age of 20 from $7.50 per hour to $5.25.
Lawmakers in Missouri proposed a removal of state child labor laws. A proposed measure would have removed rules regarding the employment of children younger than 14. Limits on the number of daily work hours would have also been removed. State inspections for companies that employ children would have been removed too.
One U.S. Senator from Utah has challenged the constitutionality of federal child labor laws under Fair Labor Standards Act. Challenges have dated back to 1941 when the federal law was passed. Generally, the federal law is grounded on the idea that children should focus on education.
The support for a child’s focus on education is demonstrated through studies that show children who work while in school earn lower grades. Some of the push for reformed child labor laws comes from the fast-food industry. The fast-food industry wants the ability to schedule high school workers for longer and later shifts.
Source: Time.com, “Dirty Work: The creeping rollback of child-labor laws,” Adam Cohen, 6/6/11