July 17, 2019 | 92° F

Keep child labor laws in place

It seems that, these day, the American labor force is under siege by the Republican Party. The entire nation watched while Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) fought against collective bargaining rights — and eventually won. Now the fight has shifted to Ohio, where the GOP is once again looking to throw away years of progress for labor rights. This time it isn't unions who Republicans are putting the pressure on. Instead, it's child labor laws. Let that one sink in for a moment. We're certain you'll be scratching your head as much as we are right now.

Bill LD 1346, currently being considered by the Ohio House of Representatives, seeks to make a lot of changes to the existing child labor laws. It would allow employers to pay employees under 20 less than minimum wage — $5.25 an hour, to be exact — during the first 180 days of employment. It also would remove the cap on the amount of hours a worker 16 or older is allowed to work on school days and allow minors under 16 to work four hours on school days.

We see no reason for this bill to be approved, much less introduced in the first place. Child labor laws are there for a reason, as minors are among the most exploitable sections of the labor force. Deregulating child labor is a mistake, plain and simple. By removing caps on hours, the bill could allow employers to cut into the time high school students need to do their schoolwork. Anyone who argues that employers would be sensitive to a student's school needs has probably never actually worked a job while in high school. Also, paying people under the age of 20 less than minimum wage is just not fair. As laborers, they deserve to be paid at least the minimum wage, just like everyone else. Many minors have jobs because they need to either support themselves or their families. Very few high school students are getting jobs just for kicks.

Ohio Rep. Paul Gilbert (D) brings up a good point regarding Maine's unemployment rate. Currently, the state is more than 8 percent. With that many people looking for jobs, why would the GOP be looking to create a cheap, unprotected labor force? In the words of Gilbert himself, "If we had a shortage of job applicants or potential workers, then you could look at other populations to ease that strain on the workforce." However, that is not the case.  

Despite what many members of the GOP would have you believe, laborers have rights and protections for reasons. Stripping them is not an option, especially when it comes to children.

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