Recent Legislative Trend Makes Child Labor More Available for Meatpacking Plants

In a New York Times essay entitled “Are We Actually Arguing About Whether 14-Year-Olds Should Work in Meatpacking Plants?” Terri Gerstein, a fellow at the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard Law School and the Economic Policy Institute, highlights a legislative trend to make it easier for children to work in dangerous settings such as meatpacking plants with fewer child labor protections. The essay describes a bill that Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed to make it easier for employers to hire children under sixteen years of age as well as similar bills pending in Iowa and Minnesota. The Iowa bill would allow fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds to work in meatpacking plants. “Even arguing about whether 14-year-olds should work in meatpacking plants, as though it were an appropriate subject for legitimate political debate, runs the risk of normalizing a practice that should be totally out of bounds. We need higher wages, safer workplaces and all-around better jobs. What we don’t need — and it’s outrageous we’re even discussing it — is more oppressive child labor.”