USA: Corporations are Parents! Support for Child Labor Goes Mainstream – Public Citizen

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USA: Corporations are Parents! Support for Child Labor Goes Mainstream – Public Citizen

Newt Gingrich drew plenty of ire when he promoted child labor as a solution to the ‘lack of work ethic’ among America’s youth. Though it shouldn’t be too surprising as this is the same guy who believes we should put mirrors in space and colonize the moon. Gingrich may be leading in the polls for the GOP nomination but the specifics of his platform aren’t exactly mainstream. After all, what other politician would support such an anachronism as child labor?

The answer: 30 US Senators, including four Democrats. In a rare bipartisan move, this group of Senators sent a letter to the Department of Labor yesterday demanding the withdrawal of a proposed child labor regulation. The rule is meant to protect children ages 12 to 15 from performing hazardous farm jobs like demolishing barns, mixing pesticides, and climbing 20-foot ladders.

Because of a loophole in federal labor standards, child labor in agriculture is shockingly quite legal. Children as young as twelve can work on farms and are sometimes made to work unrestricted hours. Though the Department of Labor’s proposed rule wouldn’t ban child labor on farms, it would make the work a little safer. Right now, children working on farms die at a rate that is six times higher when compared with their peers who hold other jobs.

But these types of numbers don’t figure in to the push to withdraw the rule. Instead the Senators who sent the letter yesterday use the excuse that the regulation will prevent children from working on family farms and therefore undermine the rural way of life. Agribusiness lobbyists, coincidentally, have been saying the exact same thing. And an excuse is really all this is. The Senators acknowledge that there is an exemption for parent-owned farms in the law, but they say it doesn’t apply to farms that are legally corporations. Note: very few family farms are actually organized as corporations.

While the Senators want the regulation quashed entirely, if that doesn’t happen they say they’d be okay if the Department of Labor expanded the definition of “parent” to include corporations.

I guess if we already have corporate personhood, corporate parenthood is just a logical extension. We can’t wait to see them at the PTA.

Justin Feldman, MPH, MSW
Worker Health & Safety Advocate
Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

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