As scholars of child labor, we find the arguments [Iowa Gov. Kim] Reynolds and other like-minded politicians are using today to justify undoing child labor protections echo older justifications made decades ago.
In our view, Iowa has the most radical new law designed to roll back child labor protections. It allows children as young as 14 to work in meat coolers and industrial laundries, and teens 15 and older can work on assembly lines around dangerous machinery.
Teens as young as 16 can now serve alcohol in Iowa restaurants, as long as two adults are present.
U.S. Labor Department officials argue that several provisions of Iowa’s new law violate national child labor standards. However, the department has not disclosed a clear strategy for combating such violations.
It’s not ideal to have 16-year-olds serving booze late at night, and it certainly sets up situations where kids might be abused or exploited by both their employers and their employers patrons, but legalizing work in notoriously dangerous meat-packing plants and on assembly lines is irresponsible. As a nation we said no to this.
But, as our rural population shrinks and our overall population ages, conservative who oppose immigration have backed themselves into a workforce corner, and so increasingly need kids to fill dangerous jobs.