Florida Republicans Introduce Bill Gutting Teen Labor Restrictions

Linda Chaney florida

A new measure in Florida aims to allow 16-year-old kids to drop out of school and work full time. 

An amendment to HB 49 — offered by the bill’s author, state Rep. Linda Chaney (R) — would eliminate laws that prevent 16 and 17-year-olds from working more than 30 hours a week, impose 8-hour workday restrictions, and guarantee mandated breaks every four hours. 

The bill, introduced in September and now under review by the Florida House Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee, would relegate 16 and 17-year-olds to virtually the same status as an employee who is over 18 years of age — provided that the teens have either formally dropped out of school or are taking classes online or at home. Furthermore, the bill would also severely curtail local municipalities’ ability to implement their own provisions to combat the workplace exploitation of minors. 

The Florida Policy Institute, a state-level policy research nonprofit, issued a statement opposing the legislation. 

“During a time when Florida lawmakers should be focused on implementing greater protections for all workers, not fewer, we are especially concerned that legislators are considering a bill that would undo crucial provisions of Florida’s child labor laws,” Sadaf Knight, chief executive officer of the organization wrote. 

“As FPI pointed out in recent analysis, child labor law violations in Florida have already tripled over the last couple of years, with most occurring in the service, retail, and construction industries. Additionally, Florida already has a child-labor-law-waiver process for teens who want to work additional hours but bump against current regulations, calling into question the purpose of the bill,” Knight added. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, child labor violations have sharply increased since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as employers have struggled to find workers.  

A November report from More Perfect Union found that the child labor bill was not born of organic concern for the employment prospects of Florida’s youth, but of lobbying efforts by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a far-right think tank funded by conservative billionaire Dick Uihlein. 

According to an email obtained by Garcia and Zakarin, the original draft of the legislation was produced by the FGA’s advocacy arm, and emailed to Chaney, who introduced the bill in the state legislature. 

“This is an opportunity for families to be able to help themselves and build life skills that will serve them later in life and help our small businesses who will help our labor shortages all in one,” Chaney told Fox19 in September. 

The FGA has been carrying out a nationwide effort to roll back restrictions on the use of child and teenage workers. According to an investigation by The Washington Post, the organization has been involved in successful efforts in Iowa and Arkansas to pass bills revoking restrictions on the employment conditions of teenagers. The report also found that the push by the FGA and other conservative activist groups is being marketed to Republican lawmakers as an extension of the “parental rights” movements, arguing that parents — not the government — should determine the conditions of a child’s employment. Earlier this week, a similar bill was filed in the Indiana legislature. 


As the bill advances through the Florida legislature, there are already signs that it may face opposition from parents and schools — not that that has ever stopped Florida Republicans from advancing draconian policies against their citizens. A January poll conducted by the Florida Policy Institute in conjunction with the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy firm found that more than 70 percent of Floridians oppose the changes proposed by HB 49, a result that transcended party lines. 

“The results of this poll are not surprising — Florida voters want the best for kids in this state, and are not willing to sacrifice the well-being of children so employers can fill open positions with cheap labor,” Knight wrote in a statement announcing the poll.  “Our state lawmakers should be focused on improving the health and safety of Florida youth, not removing crucial labor law protections.”

Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/florida-republicans-introduce-bill-gutting-teen-labor-restrictions-1234944271/

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