Get ready for the rollback of U.S. child labor laws… It’s starting

mainelabormuralAs we discussed here not too long ago, Paul LePage, the new Tea Party-supported Governor of Maine, recently made national headlines for ordering the removal of a mural depicting the advances made by organized labor from his state’s Department of Labor building. The mural, among other things, includes a panel acknowledging the plight of Maine’s children before the passage of child labor laws. As you can imagine, a good number of people are up in arms over the Governor’s order, seeing it as a blatant attempt to rewrite the history of Maine and hide the exploitation of workers, both young and old, that was widespread not too long ago.

It occurred to me that perhaps I could step in and broker a compromise of some kind. I think, for instance, if the kids could be made a little less depressed-looking, LePage might reconsider. A few smiles, and a couple of bright colors, I believe, would go a long way. And, what if the girl with the thimbles on her fingers could be counting a big roll of money? And, what if the boy with the newspapers could be winking knowingly, as if to say, “Damn, I’m making a lot of money for just selling papers”? I think, with just those few small edits, we could get everyone onboard. (If one of you in the audience could mock something up in Photoshop, I’d really appreciate it.)

The main thing is, we need to reframe the whole issue so that it’s not about the systematic abuse of minors, but the empowerment of young Americans.

And, it would dovetail nicely with the child labor legislation currently making its way through the Maine House and Senate, like LD 1346 – The Act to Enhance Access to the Workplace for Minors.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? Who, after all, isn’t for increasing access?

It puts kids in control of their own destiny, right?

Not only does this legislation allow kids to work 24 hours a week (the Republican legislation originally proposed had the cap set at 32 hours), but it also drops their minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $5.25 (for the first 180-days a person under the age 20 works), incentivizing employers to hire young, unskilled workers.

Sure, it would encourage employers not to hire adults, and to turn over their workforce every 180 days, but just think of the terrific opportunity it would provide to these kids.

Republican State Senator Debra Plowman, the bill’s sponsor, said the proposal is designed to give kids an opportunity to save more money for college or contribute to their family’s finances… Sure, they’ll have to work about 30% more hours to earn the same amount that they could earn today, but it’s not like kids have other things to worry about, like their educations.

And there’s more good news for the kids of Maine. State Representative David Burns is sponsoring a bill which would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.

Maine, though, still has a long way to go to catch up to catch up Missouri, where they’re considering legislation put forward by Senator Jane Cunningham to “eliminate the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen.”

One just hopes that Michigan gets their act together soon, so that I can start capitalizing on Clementine’s nimble little fingers and sharp eyesight.

Here, with more on the situation in Maine, is Rachel Maddow.

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  1. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    And in Florida: Gov. Rick Scott orders immediate cuts to programs for disabled.

    Terrible people have taken over parts of our government, and they are making radical changes to what we, as a nation, have built. And we keep wasting money on wars and enabling the rich to get disproportionately richer.

  2. Glen S.
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Is it any coincidence that many of the same people who are pushing to repeal child labor laws are also voting for deep school cuts that threaten free, public, K-12 education?

    Every day lately it seems there is yet another report from yet another state — describing deep cuts to social programs or radical deregulation (or, in the case of abortion, radical re-regulation) that would have been unthinkable only a year or two ago.

    If this pace continues, the U.S. will soon be unrecognizable … which, I guess, is exactly what the TeaPublican Party wants?

  3. Ale Roka
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    It used to be that one worker per household was enough to earn a middle class income. Then it took two. Yesterday the NY Times ran a report suggesting that two workers is no longer enough to provide economic security.

    I for one am heartened to see Republican’s finally doing something creative to increase the earning potential of American families. The repeal of the child labor laws will be the savior of the middle class!

  4. Peter Larson
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    This is what America wants, to go back to the way things were in 1776.

  5. Posted April 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait for the windfall of money that we will all get from putting poor children to work and keeping them out of school.

  6. Edward
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    1776 sounds pretty patriotic to me, Pete. I’m beginning to question your status as an American. Can I see your papers?

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    That’s awesome! There are lots of kids at my school who I could put to work. I need my house cleaned and my yard taken care of and my dog walked. Now of course some of them *already* have jobs to help their families and some already miss lots of school to, among other things, babysit their younger siblings but I think I’ll buy an old ice cream truck and use the loud speaker to round them up. That won’t be creepy or WWII-y or anything!

    Seriously, what is it going to take to shake people up? I always thought that fucking with the child labor laws would do it but apparently not.

  8. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain, I just read the article you linked to. I am absolutely speechless.

  9. Heidi
    Posted April 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    What I don’t understand is why aren’t more people aware of this crap and pissed off about it! I can paste links on facebook or talk to people about things that are going on..and just get blank stares or blank reads or it’s just that Heidi again, we have become sheeple in the true sense.
    Anyone else feel like screaming Wake the Fuck Up People!

  10. Posted April 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Because they don’t care. Americans have been turning a blind eye to child labor for longer than you think.

  11. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Heidi, I totally feel ya…I don’t know if it’s because, as Pete says, people don’t care or because they feel powerless to do anything or if they just tired and scared and need to hold their own lives together or all of the above.

  12. Stephen
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    If you want to hear something really shocking, ask a tea party libertarian for his views on child prostitution.

  13. Peter Larson
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    The free market will determine the price for a child prostitute.

  14. K2
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    And the bad pimps will wither away and die, as children will naturally gravitate toward the ones with the better health plans, fitness facilities, and pay scales.

  15. Karen Hodges
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Kids should be empowered to sell their own organs.

  16. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I recently argued with a Libertarian, Randian capitalist (who cited, who claimed that parents should not be required by law to take care of their children. It’s odd how much he needed to be consistent in his philosophy, even to the point of absurdity.

  17. TaterSalad
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Obama, you are the owner of GM, yet your support Unions. Why is this happening?

    UAW members are now picketing the Chevy Volt plant in Detroit while GM still owes the government and taxpayers for the bail-out. Greed at its finest!

  18. snark-robot
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    If a kid wants to, he should not only be given the opportunity to work in a mine, but he should have the right to sell one of his good lungs to an older miner, who suffers from black-lung. It would be like the circle of life.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] up on the Christian Science Monitor website this evening. LePage, as you’ll recall from our recent conversations, is the man who recently made headlines for ordering murals depicting the advances of organized […]

  2. […] has called such child protection laws “truly stupid,” and, not too long ago, in Maine, Republicans passed something called The Act to Enhance Access to the Workplace for Minors, which sought to roll back some of those very child labor laws Gingrich objected to. So, yes, feel […]

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