I know there's a labor shortage at the moment but, there has to be a better way than this.

Representatives from Ohio, and 10 other states, have proposed bills that would "relax" child labor laws allowing teens and kids as young as 14 to work later and in potentially more hazardous conditions and situations.

In Ohio

Looking at the laws being passed or being proposed across the states, the Ohio Legislature's bill is pretty mild.

Their proposed bill, which is likely to pass, would allow teens ages 14 and 15 to work until 9 pm during the school year with a parent's permission. However, this directly contradicts a federal law that says that work time for teens that age should end at 7 pm.

This means Ohio will also have to request that the U.S. Congress amend its own laws.

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In Other States

Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin are also among the states loosening child labor laws.

In Wisconsin, for example, lawmakers are working on a proposal to allow 14-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars. In Iowa, the legislation would allow teens as young as 14 to work in meat coolers and industrial laundries. And, lawmakers in Minnesota want 16 and 17-year-olds to work on construction sites. Read more here.

In Arkansas, they're throwing anything that would require proof of age or parental consent out the window. According to an article from Yahoo News,

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law in March eliminating permits that required employers to verify a child’s age and a parent's consent


Why is This Bad?

Because, similarly to immigrants or the formerly incarcerated, teens represent a workforce that could be taken advantage of because they might not have the knowledge or confidence to rally against unfair working conditions.

And, they already are being taken advantage of.

In February of 2023, a federal investigation announced by the Department of Labor found that over 100 children, between the ages of 13 and 17, were illegally working overnight shifts in the Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services Inc.

They were working around chemicals and meat processing equipment like saws. Overnight. At 13 years old.

I know. A lot of us had jobs when we were teens. But, putting the responsibility of filling the labor shortage on the backs of teenagers to the point where employers and lawmakers feel comfortable putting them in dangerous situations, legal or not, feels like a very slippery slope.

On a personal note, I started working when I was 12 years old. My mother, who I lived with, was not good with managing money so we were constantly being evicted from our places of residence. That's what led me to get a job at such a young age. It eventually turned into me working full-time at 16 under the guise that I was "homeschooled." I wasn't. I had essentially dropped out of school to pay the bills.

At age 19 I was able to get my high school diploma (at nearly a 4.0). But, the system and people in my life had failed me. Paying the bills and rent at 14,15,16 years old can not be allowed to be considered the norm. Something I fear will happen with these new laws.

You can learn more about the cause of the labor shortage and possible solutions outside of teen labor here.

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