Child labor bill turns priorities upside down
Posted on February 9, 2023 at 12:01 PM by Mike Owen
A new proposal in the Iowa Legislature turns Iowa priorities and values upside down. At a time we are doing too little for economic opportunity for children and their families, lawmakers are looking to relax protection for minors in the workplace as an excuse to meet a workforce shortage.
The bill, Senate File 167 is one more step down a low road that lets employers off the hook for low wages, and this Legislature off the hook for already poor workplace protections. Worse, it puts young people at risk.
Common Good Iowa is registered against the bill, which today passed a Senate subcommittee.
For our young people, we should aspire to more than making them tools or pawns in a workforce strategy that will most certainly fail. If we want more people in the workforce, we need to pay them and to protect them. We need to assure them critical access to child care, and to crack down on wage theft. This bill fails on each count.
Putting kids to work at longer hours and in potentially risky work assignments isn't a real answer for a workforce shortage, and it's rarely going to be an answer for young people as they proceed toward adulthood.
Instead, we should ask ourselves, as Iowa leaders in the past have done, what would make Iowa the best place to be a kid? How can we best point a direction for achievement across the spectrum the world offers? What can we do to enhance their physical, intellectual and emotional development? How can we make post-high-school education and training affordable?
A long-range workforce strategy will ask those questions, and seek answers that nurtures dreams and goals of young Iowans — as a priority, and not a short-term fix for low-wage employers. They are far more important challenges than making sure a 16-year-old can serve a beer, or work later at night instead of doing homework or spending time with family and friends.