Louisiana Republicans vote to end lunch breaks for child workers

Full TextIt’s been difficult to keep up with the number of Republican efforts in recent years to roll back child labor laws. The Guardian reported in the fall that GOP policymakers at the state level “have led efforts to roll back child labor protections, with bills introduced in at least 16 states.” To be sure, not all of the measures are identical. In some states, Republicans want to scrap age verification requirements for employers. In other states, they want minors to be able to serve alcohol. A Washington Post report last year noted some state GOP officials also eyed proposals to allow kids as young as 14 to “work certain jobs in meatpacking plants and shield businesses from civil liability if a child laborer is sickened.” Evidently, related efforts are underway again this year, and this NoLa.com report out of Louisiana stood out as especially striking. > A Louisiana House committee voted Thursday to repeal a law requiring employers to give child workers lunch breaks and to cut unemployment benefits — part of a push by Republicans to remove constraints on employers and reduce aid for injured and unemployed workers. Evidently, now that Republicans control all of the levers of power in Louisiana again — former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards stepped down after two terms earlier this year — Republican Gov. Jeff Landry directed officials to “reform” the state’s business environment. Some GOP officials are taking that directive quite seriously — to the point that they’re advancing a plan to scrap requirements for lunch breaks for child workers. According to the local report, the proposal is being championed by Republican state Rep. Roger Wilder, who owns some smoothie franchises across the region, and who said many of his child employees want to work without lunch breaks. “The wording is ‘We’re here to harm children.’ Give me a break,” he said. “These are young adults.” For the record, the kids might very well be young, but they’re minors, not adults. The reporting comes with some caveats: The bill this week passed a state legislative committee, and it’s headed to the state House floor in Louisiana, but it hasn’t yet become law. There’s still time, in other words, for the measure to be amended and/or defeated. But the bigger picture is nevertheless unmistakable: In contemporary politics, Republican governance, especially at the state level, is increasingly invested in rolling back child-labor safeguards. As for why officials in so many states are “reforming” their child-labor laws — an issue that appeared to be relatively settled until quite recently — there’s reason to believe the sudden flurry is not coincidental. The Washington Post last year highlighted the role of something called the Foundation for Government Accountability, which is taking the lead on “maneuvering” these changes through state legislatures. > The Florida-based think tank and its lobbying arm, the Opportunity Solutions Project, have found remarkable success among Republicans to relax regulations that prevent children from working long hours in dangerous conditions. And they are gaining traction at a time the Biden administration is scrambling to enforce existing labor protections for children. … Since 2016, the FGA’s Opportunity Solutions Project has hired 115 lobbyists across the country with a presence in 22 states, according to the nonpartisan political watchdog group OpenSecrets. With this in mind, there’s no reason to expect these measures to disappear anytime soon.

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laying the last of the foundation to go from Kids in Cages to Kids with Slave Wages

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