The Ohio Senate passed a bill along party lines that will loosen child labor laws by allowing kids to work longer hours on school nights. Republican proponents of the bill argue that this will help to alleviate the labor shortage while teaching kids responsibility and limiting social media time. Democratic opponents worry that the situation could be abused and that looking to children as the answer to the labor shortage could result in exploitation.
According to the Statehouse News Bureau, the proposed bill will allow 14- and 15-year-old children to work longer on school nights. Those kids must quit working at 7 p.m. on school nights and 9 pm from June 1 to September 1. This bill would allow kids, with their parent’s permission, to work until 9 p.m. any time of the year. The Senate also passed a resolution asking Congress to take similar action on a national basis.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) said the bill is a win-win for businesses. And, he says, it will also allow young employees to learn good habits to last a lifetime.
“Learning how to show up on time, learning how to follow direction and execute commands, execute missions and things like that,” Schaffer said.
Proponents also link the bill to social media use. “It will allow them the opportunity to earn some extra dollars. And here’s a bonus that we maybe haven’t thought about – this is less time that they will be spending on social media, like TikTok and others,” said Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), Business Insider reported.
Child Labor Exploitation Concerns
Critics worry that this bill is a part of a nationwide trend by Republicans to weaken and attack child labor laws. The Economic Policy Institute reports that, “States across the country are attempting to weaken child labor protections, just as violations of these standards are rising. This report identifies bills weakening child labor standards in 10 states that have been introduced or passed in the past two years alone.”
The New York Times podcast, The Daily, reported on A New Child Labor Crisis in America, which focused on the exploitation of migrant children in the labor force, exposed thousands of children working in dangerous factory and construction jobs.
An NPR article focused on the relaxed child labor laws for agriculture, “Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, kids 12 and up can work unlimited hours outside school hours in agriculture, and the rules are even more lenient for kids who work on their families’ farms.” These relaxed laws mean that while a child cannot purchase cigarettes, many of them can be found working in tobacco fields. This is because, “agriculture’s hazardous occupation orders haven’t been updated in 50 years, and they don’t include tobacco, despite the known risks for workers of all ages.”
The current exploitation of children in these instances has led many lawmakers to believe child labor laws should be tightened and not relaxed. Ohio State Senator Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) voted against the bill because she is afraid the situation could be abused.
“We don’t have any guardrails in there. We don’t have any mention whatsoever in this bill nor in that resolution as to how we continue to monitor,” Ingram said
Sen. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) said he thinks lawmakers are going down the wrong road by focusing on 14- and 15-year-olds instead of three, four and- five year olds.He said a survey from the Center for American Progress showed many women cannot work because they lack available child care.
“Twenty percent of stay-at-home mothers would enter the workforce if they had child care assistance. That’s where we need to be targeting our workforce shortages,” Smith said.
After passing the house with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against it, the bill now moves on to the House. It is expected to pass given the Republican supermajority there.