Republican Iowa Governor Rolls Back State’s Child Labor Law Protections – Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, has approved legislation that reduces various child labor protections in the Midwest state. These changes involve modifying the permissible working hours for children and the types of businesses where they can be employed. In response to workforce shortages, Iowa and several other states in the US have relaxed child labor regulations.
However, these measures have faced significant backlash from Democrats and labor organizations. According to the Associated Press, the legislation signed by Reynolds on Friday was initially passed by lawmakers in May, receiving support solely from Republicans. Critics, including Democrats, expressed concerns that the bill could lead to the exploitation of children by businesses and interfere with their education.
“With this legislation Iowa joins 20 other states in providing tailored, common sense labor provisions that allow young adults to develop their skills in the workforce,” Reynolds said in a statement. According to CNN, Iowa’s new law permits 14- and 15-year-olds to work an additional two hours per day during the school year, totaling six hours. Additionally, they can engage in certain types of work that were previously prohibited, such as industrial laundry services, freezers, and meat coolers.
Meanwhile, 16- and 17-year-olds will now have the same working hours as adults. Teenagers as young as 16 are also allowed to serve alcohol in restaurants if they have consent from a parent or guardian, as reported by CNN. This change in the law raises the possibility of children operating heavy machinery like power saws or participating in demolition projects, according to the Associated Press.
The presence of two adults is required when minors serve alcohol, and minor employees must complete training on preventing and responding to sexual harassment, as mentioned by CNN. Furthermore, the new law permits 16-year-olds and above to work in areas such as manufacturing, provided they are part of a work-based learning program and have obtained an exemption from the Iowa Department of Education or Iowa Workforce Development.
On Friday, Reynolds also approved multiple other laws, one of which prohibits the use of school materials discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms for students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The relaxation of child labor laws in Iowa occurs at a time when several states are witnessing prominent cases of child labor violations. Republicans across the United States are attempting to roll back child labor laws.
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In May, a US Department of Labor investigation revealed that several McDonald’s franchises in Kentucky had violated child labor laws. These violations included the exploitation of at least two 10-year-olds for unpaid labor, often extending until 2 am. In February, a separate investigation discovered that more than 100 children were unlawfully employed at a slaughterhouse cleaning plant. These underage workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals and operated dangerous equipment, including saws.