We Need a Federal Young Workers’ Bill of Rights

February 11, 2024 by Sarah Clements

“What is the most surprising thing you have seen?” “Little children working.” [1] ~ 1906

“An investigator wrote that he ‘observed another individual of slim build, small stature, and young‐looking facial features standing near conveyor belts; they were so cold that they were shaking.’”[2] ~ 2023

In Mississippi, Duvan Tomas Perez was trapped in a poultry plant conveyor belt while cleaning it as a sanitation worker, and he died instantly.[3] He was 16. In Wisconsin, Michael “Mikey” Schuls was pinned down by a wood-stacking machine at a logging company and was crushed to death.[4] He was 16. In Missouri, Will Hampton was working at a landfill when he got stuck between a rig and its trailer, killing him instantly.[5] He was 16. The tragic, preventable losses of these three boys all occurred within five weeks of each other in the summer of 2023.[6] Their stories are reminders of the growing trend of children and teen workers–including those 16 years of age and younger–being hired by dangerous or exploitative employers. To avoid paying living wages and providing safe working conditions to adult workers who have more power and voice, companies are side-stepping federal employment rules by targeting the young, poor, and vulnerable.[7] Indeed, unaccompanied migrant minors make up a growing percentage of the most exploited workers today.

State legislatures across the country are paving the way for these increases in child labor violations with new laws pushed by industry groups and think tanks opposed to welfare programs. Sometimes, these new statutes are even written to intentionally contradict preemptive federal child labor rules like the ones found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Oppressive child labor never entirely disappeared; young people are still being taken advantage of and getting hurt on the job. To meet the moment and help protect the millions of young people in the labor force in the United States, we need federal support and resources. Congress should act now to (1) ensure that the Department of Labor (DOL) can enforce the laws on the books and (2) pass a comprehensive Young Workers’ Bill of Rights to update federal standards to meet the needs of today.

Oppressive Child Labor in 2024

In the past decade, the number of child labor violations has skyrocketed. From 2015 to 2022, the number of minors involved in child labor violations rose 283%.[8] In 2015, around 1,000 minors were found to be employed in violation of child labor laws, but by 2022, that number rose to 3,876.[9] Experts say this trend is a change in course after years where violations were less common.[10] In fiscal year 2023, the DOL found 5,792 minors working in violation of child labor laws, which was an 88% increase since 2019.[11] There was also an 83% increase from fiscal year 2022 to 2023 in penalties levied on violative employers.[12] While the DOL concluded 955 child labor investigations in 2023, they reported last October that they had over 800 such investigations ongoing, with more coming each week.[13] Last year, almost 6,000 children were found to be employed in violation of the law.[14] And while violations are found to occur in all types of communities, impacting children of many backgrounds, accompanied and unaccompanied minors from South America make up a particularly high-risk group. One former Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcer stated about these trends, “You have some employers who are basically going after the most vulnerable workers, the workers with the least ability to fight back or question anything. Who could be more vulnerable than A) children and B) immigrant children?”[15] Given their status and the likelihood that they have few connections or resources here, migrant children are easily exploited—which leads to the sobering realization that most exploitation of young people in the workplace today likely goes unreported and uninvestigated.[16]

Child labor violations are occurring in a range of workplace settings and industries. The most egregious violations happen to children who are hired to maneuver dangerous machinery, utilize harmful chemicals and cleaning agents, and operate in life-threatening conditions. These workplaces tend to be meatpacking plants,[17] factories,[18] slaughterhouses,[19] landfills,[20] car manufacturing plants,[21] and lumber.[22] Common household brands like General Mills, Walmart, and Ford have been implicated in their plants and supply chains.[23] In 2023, the DOL issued hundreds of citations against fast food companies that violated federal child labor standards. Companies like McDonald’s,[24] Dunkin’ Donuts,[25] Subway,[26] Chipotle,[27] and Popeyes[28] have had to pay damages or close shops in response to this enforcement.[29]

While some of the exploitative practices targeting children take place in franchises or smaller businesses, some of the largest investigations have turned up systemic failures rampant in third-party subcontractor companies.[30] Large corporations sometimes utilize staffing agencies or third-party services to, for example, do sanitation work in plants overnight.[31] Subcontractors can be used for a range of tasks that are easy for corporations to externalize; this subsequently allows corporations to evade accountability when subcontractors, from whom they are benefiting and profiting, break the law. Indeed, when allegations are made, and penalties are levied against violative operations, corporations routinely claim that they should not be held legally or financially responsible for hiring decisions or working conditions when they were removed from such decision-making due to this “fissured” business model.[32] While these principal corporations are technically supposed to be jointly liable under the law, “they are rarely held responsible in practice.”[33] This system allows employment violations to continue unchecked by powerful beneficiaries and shields corporations from liability in their supply chains.[34] Why would they care if children are getting acid burns or being sent to the emergency room for their work when, once caught, the issue never touches them or their bottom line?

These cross-industry trends are a manifestation of compounding policy challenges, including but not limited to our broken immigration system;[35] migrants and refugee families looking for resources and stability;[36] a labor force still picking up the pieces after hundreds of thousands of workers died or were seriously impaired by the COVID-19 pandemic;[37] stagnant wages that have not caught up to inflation; and workers demanding more from employers. The crises have collided into a perfect storm, fueling an increase in exploitative child labor that helps companies and private equity firms’ profit margins and harms low-income, poor, and migrant families.[38] As oppressive youth employment grows and state legislatures across the country help fuel these practices, workers urgently need comprehensive federal protections.

Federal Child Labor Standards

Federal labor law prohibits oppressive child labor and provides a floor of protection for people aged 18 and younger who want to join the workforce.[39] The Fair Labor Standards Act and other regulations[40] establish wage, hour, and occupational standard rules for this class. Children younger than 14 are prohibited from working in occupations covered by the FLSA.[41] They could still work in settings outside the scope of the FLSA, such as doing chores or babysitting for a neighbor or in agriculture.[42] Those who are 14 and 15 years old are prohibited from working in industries that the DOL deems hazardous.[43] These include occupations involving meat processing and slicing, demolition, mining, brick and tile, driving, roofing, working with metal, forklifts, power-driven woodworking machinery, and more.[44] In other workplace settings, 14-year-olds can work for limited periods and with specific conditions met. A 16- or 17-year-old can be employed for unlimited hours in a non-hazardous workplace.[45] Once workers are 18 years old, they are no longer subject to federal rules on child labor.[46]

The FLSA and accompanying regulations also set boundaries on the amount of time young workers can spend on the job. For example, minors younger than 16 years old cannot work past 7 p.m. on school nights and cannot work past 9 p.m. during the summer.[47] Rules and regulations are different for agricultural work.[48] For instance, one provision contends that children as young as 12 can be hired on farms for any number of hours as long as they still attend school.[49] Although half of work-related fatalities for children happen in agricultural occupations,[50] federal law is generally more lenient around youth employment there than it is for non-agricultural occupations.[51]

If an employer violates federal child labor rules, the maximum civil penalty is $15,138 per child implicated.[52] Enforcers might also levy criminal penalties against willful violations.[53] Additionally, the FLSA prohibits shipping, delivering, or receiving “hot goods” via interstate commerce 30 days after a child labor violation.[54] The DOL enforces these and other rules by handling hundreds of complaints a year, investigating violations, working with stakeholders to source reporting, conducting outreach events, developing know-your-rights resources, collaborating with an interagency task force committed to federal child labor laws, and more.[55]

State Laws Fueling Exploitation

While young people are increasingly being hired for dangerous work, over a dozen states have drafted or passed laws loosening the very standards being defied by employers.[56] In general, the state statutes are aimed at “making it easier for kids from 14 to 17 years old to work longer and later—and in occupations that were previously off-limits for minors.”[57] Some of these laws, like Iowa’s, even go so far as to set wholly contradictory rules to federal standards.[58] Not only will this confuse workers about what the law says as it applies to them, but it also poses the likelihood of a state suing the federal government to unravel federal regulations.[59] Indeed, if a state law is less restrictive than the FLSA, although federal law preempts, the state may take an opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the federal rules in court.[60]

Industry groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Restaurant Association are primary advocates for these state laws and eventual federal deregulation.[61] Conservative think tanks like the Foundation for Government Accountability—founded to cut social safety net and anti-poverty programs—also have a heavy hand in pushing the cause.[62] On the other end of the issue, as the Economic Policy Institute writes, “Children of families in poverty, and especially Black, brown, and immigrant youth, stand to suffer the most harm from such changes.”[63]

Iowa’s bill, in part, allows 14-year-olds to work night shifts and in potentially hazardous workplaces like meat coolers and industrial laundries.[64] It also permits 15-year-olds to work on dangerous assembly lines.[65] The bill, signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds in May of 2023, expands the hours of employment permissible during the school year for teenagers under 16.[66] Arkansas’s governor signed into law a bill that eliminates work permits and age verification for 14- and 15-year-olds.[67]

Other states have proposed harmful legislation with varying success. Ohio lawmakers sought to contradict federal standards by extending how late into the night 14- and 15-year-olds can be on the job during the school year.[68] In Minnesota, elected officials introduced legislation to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in and around construction sites, an occupation deemed hazardous and off-limits by the FLSA.[69] Georgia legislators proposed a law to eliminate work permits for minors. South Dakota legislators proposed one to allow children 14 years and younger to work until 9 p.m.[70] Wisconsin’s legislature considered allowing teens to have longer and later work hours and to permit 14-year-olds to serve alcohol.[71] New Jersey and New Hampshire succeeded in passing laws extending work hours for minors and allowing them to serve alcohol.[72] Meanwhile, Nebraska legislators proposed setting wages for minors below the state’s minimum wage.[73] Florida,[74] Missouri,[75] and Indiana[76] have also proposed deregulatory measures.

Ongoing Efforts

Over the past thirty years, members of Congress have proposed federal legislation to update child labor standards on the books. Starting in 1993, over the course of many years, Representative Tom Lantos and others proposed a “Young American Workers’ Bill of Rights” to reform provisions of the FLSA to meet the needs of the modern-day workforce.[77] The Bill of Rights legislation sought to increase requirements for reporting, regulations, penalties, coverage, civil actions, and migrant and seasonal agricultural labor.[78] It also directed the Secretary of Labor to compile annual child labor data, increase coordination between federal, state, and agency bodies to combat oppressive child labor, and publicize violators.[79] Recently, advocates in California proposed a Young Workers’ Bill of Rights, and Illinois’s General Assembly adopted such a measure in 2022.[80] These efforts serve as potential inspiration for a federal Young Workers’ Bill of Rights.

Elected officials have also proposed versions of the CARE (Children’s Act of Responsible Employment and Farm Safety) Act repeatedly since 2005 to no avail.[81] The CARE Act typically focuses on shoring up protections for children employed in agricultural occupations,[82] increasing civil and criminal penalties for violators, and expanding the class of hazardous workplaces under the FLSA.[83] Representative Raul Ruiz introduced the 2023 version of the CARE Act; among other things, it would bring age and work hours standards for children in agriculture up to those working in non-agricultural industries.[84]

Other current members of Congress have engaged in efforts to address the increase in oppressive child labor. Senator Brian Schatz introduced the Federal Child Labor Prevention Act, which would, in part, address the problem of child labor violations by independent contractors and increase penalties.[85] The bill would also ensure that “all working minors, regardless of classification, are covered by the existing protections in the FLSA.”[86] Additionally, Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Rosa Delauro introduced legislation to prohibit minors as young as 12 years old from working on tobacco farms, which can pose particular dangers to health.[87] Representative Morgan McGarvey introduced the Workers POWER Act, which would provide more resources to the DOL to tackle exploitative child labor.[88] One new bipartisan bill, the Preventing Child Labor Exploitation Act, seeks to ensure that the government does not contract with companies that have been found to violate or fail to rectify child labor violations.[89] Finally, the Children Harmed in Life-Threatening or Dangerous (CHILD) Labor Act of 2023 would address several root causes of the issue, in part by holding suppliers and subcontractors jointly liable for violations and creating a private right of action for oppressive child labor victims to sue employers for damages.[90]

In response to the ongoing wave of harmful child labor practices and enabling state legislation around the country, the DOL has ramped up enforcement and preventative initiatives. Last year, the agency began using data analysis to make it more efficient to investigate child labor violations.[91] It also helped to establish a National Strategic Enforcement Initiative on Child Labor and an interagency taskforce in the federal government focused on this issue.[92] The DOL has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to expand follow-up, services, funding, and staffing on child labor-related issues.[93] The DOL and other agencies are calling on Congress to increase funding for these initiatives and efforts, saying that the demand for attention created by the increase in violations cannot be met with present staffing and financial resources.[94]

Imagining a Federal Young Workers’ Bill of Rights

Drawing inspiration from the efforts of current and past federal, state, and agency policymakers, it’s time for Congress to pass a Young Workers’ Bill of Rights. This legislation could pull together proposals from all the above efforts to curb oppressive child labor, bolster the DOL’s enforcement capabilities, and amend the FLSA to bring its child labor provisions to meet this current crisis and push back against the new harmful state laws. The reform ideas in each federal bill mentioned above are necessary puzzle pieces. Perhaps, rather than a piecemeal approach where each issue component is broken up into different bills with different sponsors and trajectories, now is the time for comprehensive action. Reflecting the interests of the labor, workers’ rights, and immigration reform movements, a single, multi-pronged Young Workers’ Bill of Rights might galvanize awareness, excitement, and support for an urgent issue impacting hundreds of thousands of families and voters. The legislation would call back to the original FLSA reform bill first introduced in the 1990s and would be informed by the efforts in California and Illinois of the same name.

A federal Young Workers’ Bill of Rights could, among other things, focus on:

  1. Increasing funding for the Department of Labor to support child labor law enforcement; enhance civil penalties against violative employers; extend the “hot goods” provision to longer than a 30-day prohibition; compile annual child labor data and publicize violators; continue inter-agency coordination; and fund more DOL staff focused on child labor law and policy.
  2. Bolstering protections for youth employed in agriculture by bringing child labor provisions for agriculture occupations to be on par with those for non-agriculture occupations, and by cracking down on 12- and 13-year-olds working grueling hours on harmful tobacco farms.
  3. Closing corporate accountability loopholes by making it harder for corporations to deflect responsibility for child labor violations; creating a private right of action for child labor violations; ensuring the government does not contract with violative companies and corporations; and implementing strict liability for child labor violations in a company’s supply chain—including for hiring agencies, suppliers, and subcontractors.
  4. Supporting key policy objectives of the labor and immigration movements. The PRO Act and other policies that will increase union density will help empower worker solidarity and the likelihood that colleagues will report child labor violations. Fixing our broken immigration system will protect young workers by creating a pathway to citizenship, supporting asylum seekers with their requests, keeping track of unaccompanied minors even after they are placed in communities, and creating a right to counsel for unaccompanied minors.



According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about 160,000 children are injured on the job in America each year, and over 54,000 of them require emergency room attention.[95] Young people between the ages of 12-18 are at a higher risk of workplace injury compared to adult workers.[96] But the threat to their well-being increases even more so when they work in harsh, dangerous, or even hazardous working conditions. On top of that, migrant youth face terrifying vulnerability, isolation, and lack of power and voice.

At the nexus of an immigration system in crisis and an economy built for corporations is the trend of growing oppressive child labor—and the young people at the center of it require national attention. Lawmakers should modernize federal child labor standards by passing a Young Workers’ Bill of Rights informed by past and current child labor proposals in Congress, current state-level Bills of Rights, and recent efforts by the DOL. These comprehensive reforms would close loopholes, protect minors, and ignite support from advocates, workers, and families from many backgrounds, communities, and movements.



[1] Michael Schuman, History of Child Labor in the United States—Part 1: Little Children Working, Bureau of Lab. Stat.: Monthly Lab. Rev. (Jan. 2017), https://doi.org/10.21916/mlr.2017.1.

[2] Terri Gerstein, Testimony prepared for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary for a hearing on ‘Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children’, Econ. Pol’y Inst. (Jun. 14, 2023), https://www.epi.org/publication/testimony-prepared-for-the-u-s-senate-committee-on-the-judiciary-for-a-hearing-on-ensuring-the-safety-and-well-being-of-unaccompanied-children.

[3] See Michael Sainato, US labor department condemns surge in child labor after teen dies on the job, The Guardian (Jul. 27, 2023, 9:46 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jul/27/child-deaths-labor-department.

[4] See Mike Stunson, Teen killed in sawmill accident becomes organ donor for his mom, Wisconsin family says, Kansas City Star (Jul. 13, 2023, 12:06 PM), https://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/national/article277283183.html.

[5] See 16-year-old boy dies in workplace accident at Kansas City-area landfill, KAKE News (Jun. 4, 2023, 9:04 AM), https://www.kake.com/story/49078450/16yearold-boy-dies-in-workplace-accident-at-kansas-cityarea-landfill.

[6] See Nina Golgowski, Third Teen Worker Killed In Industrial Accident As States Try To Loosen Child Labor Laws, HuffPost (Jun. 20, 2023, 4:39 PM), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teen-poultry-factory-child-worker-deaths_n_64b7ecbce4b0ad7b75f67af7.

[7] See Terri Gerstein, Are We Actually Arguing About Whether 14-Year-Olds Should Work in Meatpacking Plants?,  N.Y. Times (Mar. 27, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/27/opinion/child-labor-laws.html.

[8] See Chris Gilligan, Child Labor Violations on the Rise as States Look to Roll Back Laws, U.S. News & World Report (Jul. 11, 2023, 3:07 PM), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2023-07-11/child-labor-violations-on-the-rise-amid-state-efforts-to-ease-laws.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] See Lauren Kaori Gurley, Child labor violations soared in fiscal 2023,  N.Y. Times (Oct. 19, 2023, 5:20 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/10/19/child-labor-violations-2023/.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] See Child Labor Enforcement: Keeping Young Workers Safe, Wage & Hour Div., U.S. Dep’t of Labor,  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/data/child-labor (last visited Jan. 27, 2024).

[15] Nina Golgowski, Labor Department Finds 44% Rise In Illegal Child Workers Since October, HuffPost (Jul. 27, 2023, 4:56 PM), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dol-illegal-child-labor-rising-hhs-criticism-migrants_n_64c25d5ee4b03d9b5159bae3.

[16] See Economic Policy Institute, The Rise of U.S. Child Labor, and How We Can Fight Back, YouTube (Dec. 5, 2023), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0fYDjNbeOY.

[17] See, e.g., Rebecca Rainey, Perdue, Tyson Face ‘Unique’ Probe in Child Labor Crackdown (1), Bloomberg Law (Oct. 6, 2023, 5:10 AM), https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/perdue-tyson-foods-face-unique-probe-in-child-labor-crackdown.

[18] See, e.g., Kate Gibson, Beef jerky maker employed children who worked on “dangerous equipment,” federal officials say,  CBS News (Oct. 10, 2023, 5:51 PM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/child-labor-violations-minnesota-beef-jerky-plant-monogram/.

[19] See, e.g., 60 Minutes, Slaughterhouse cleaning company employed children: How hiring went wrong, YouTube (May 8, 2023), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyT2rT2t2T0.

[20] See, e.g., 16-year-old boy dies in workplace accident at Kansas City-area landfill, supra note 5.

[21] See, e.g., Sally Dworack-Fisher & Laura Padin, Corporations have a duty to prevent child labor abuses in their supply chains. Here’s how they’re still getting off the hook, Fortune Mag. (Mar. 16, 2023, 11:20 AM), https://fortune.com/2023/03/16/corporations-child-labor-abuses-supply-chains-brands-labor/ (providing details related to oppressive child labor violations against Hyundai); see also Riley Beggin & Jordyn Grzelewski, State, feds investigate reports of child labor in west Michigan, YouTube (Feb. 27, 2023, 6:09 PM), https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/2023/02/27/state-feds-investigate-reports-of-child-labor-in-west-michigan/69950452007/ (providing details related to child labor violations happening at a Ford plant).

[22] See, e.g., Press Release, Sawmill operator agrees to compliance with federal child labor laws after Wisconsin teen suffers fatal injuries operating dangerous machinery, Wage & Hour Div., U.S. Dep’t of Labor (Sept. 7, 2023), https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20230907.

[23] See Robert Reich, Why Child Labor in America is Skyrocketing, YouTube (May 16, 2023),  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ufWhpOyJ98.

[24] See Lauren Kaori Gurley, McDonald’s child labor audit demanded by some shareholder groups, Wash. Post (Jun. 23, 2023, 12:34 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/06/23/mcdonalds-child-labor-shareholders/.

[25] See Kaori Gurley, supra note 10.

[26] See Press Release, Court orders operators of 14 Bay Area Subway locations to pay employees nearly $1M in wages, damages; sell or shut down their businesses, Wage & Hour Div., U.S. Dep’t of Labor (Sept. 23, 2023), https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20230929#:~:text=SAN%20FRANCISCO%20%E2%80%93%20The%20U.S.,15%20to%20use%20dangerous%20equipment.

[27] See Gerstein, supra note 7.

[28] See Lauren Kaori Gurley, High-schoolers allege long, late hours, child labor violations at Popeyes in Oakland, Wash. Post (May 18, 2023, 5:03 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/05/18/popeyes-child-labor-violation/.

[29] See Kaori Gurley, supra note 10.

[30] See Dworack-Fisher & Padin, supra note 20.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Id.

[35] Hannah Dreier, Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S., N.Y. Times (Feb. 25, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/25/us/unaccompanied-migrant-child-workers-exploitation.html.

[36] Hannah Dreier, As Migrant Children Were Put to Work, U.S. Ignored Warnings, N.Y. Times (Apr. 17, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/17/us/politics/migrant-child-labor-biden.html.

[37] See Gerstein, supra note 7.

[38] See Dreier, supra note 35.

[39] See generally Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, The Fair Labor Standards Act Of 1938, As Amended, WH Publication 1318, https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/FairLaborStandAct.pdf.

[40] 29 C.F.R. Part 570 (2023).

[41] See Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Nonagricultural Occupations, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor (Dec. 2016), https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/43-child-labor-non-agriculture.

[42] See Non-Agricultural Jobs – Under 14, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/YouthRules/young-workers/non-ag-under-14 (last visited Jan. 27, 2023).

[43] See Non-Agricultural Jobs – 14 – 15, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/youthrules/young-workers/non-ag-14-15 (last visited Jan. 27, 2023).

[44] See What jobs are off-limits for kids?, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/child-labor/what-jobs-are-off-limits (last visited Jan. 27, 2023).

[45] See Non-Agricultural Jobs – 16 – 17, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/YouthRules/young-workers/non-ag-16-17 (last visited Jan. 27, 2023).

[46] See What jobs are off-limits for kids?, supra note 43.

[47] See Kaori Gurley, supra note 10.

[48] Compare Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, WH1295, Child Labor Bulletin 102: Child Labor Requirements in Agricultural Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (2016) with Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, WH1330, Child Labor Provisions for Nonagricultural Occupations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (2016).

[49] See Andrea Hsu, Children as young as 12 work legally on farms, despite years of efforts to change law, NPR (Jun. 12, 2023, 1:39 PM), https://www.npr.org/2023/06/12/1181472559/child-labor-farms-agriculture-human-rights-congress.

[50] See Press Release, Dr. Ruiz Introduces Legislation to Raise Labor Standards and Protections for Farmworker Children, Off. of Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (Jun. 12, 2023), https://ruiz.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/dr-ruiz-introduces-legislation-raise-labor-standards-and-protections#:~:text=Washington%2C%20D.C.%20%E2%80%93%20Today%2C%20Congressman,children%20in%20all%20other%20occupations.

[51] See Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor, supra note 51.

[52] Id.

[53] Sarah A. Donovan, Cong. Rsch. Serv., R42713, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): An Overview (2023).

[54] See Press Release, supra note 21.

[55] See Child Labor Enforcement: Keeping Young Workers Safesupra note 13.

[56] See Economic Policy Institute, supra note 15.

[57] John A. Fliter & Betsy Wood, States Are Loosening Restrictions on Child Labor, U.S. News & World Report (Jun. 26, 2023, 1:01 PM), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2023-06-26/states-are-loosening-child-labor-laws.

[58] See generally Employment/Age Certificate, Wage & Hour Div.: U.S. Dep’t of Labor (Jan. 1, 2024),  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state/age-certificates.

[59] See Nina Mast & Jennifer Sherer, Child labor laws are under attack in states across the country, Econ. Pol’y Inst. (Mar. 14, 2023), https://www.epi.org/publication/child-labor-laws-under-attack/.

[60] This is a notable strategy taken recently by conservative states. For example, a law (S.B. 8) was passed in Texas that was intentionally inconsistent with federal law; the ensuing conflict in the courts over the provisions got to the Supreme Court and ultimately led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Texas legislators are now using the same strategy to challenge federal immigration policies. Finally, it is worth noting that federal law only preempts state law when the state law’s protections are weaker than those in federal provisions.

[61] See Sarah Lazare, The Conservative Astroturf Organization Rolling Back Child Labor Protections, American Prospect (Oct. 11, 2022), https://prospect.org/labor/conservative-astroturf-organization-rolling-back-child-labor-protections/.

[62] See Jacob Bogag & María Luisa Paúl, The conservative campaign to rewrite child labor laws, Wash. Post: The Conversation (May 1, 2023, 12:08 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/04/23/child-labor-lobbying-fga/.

[63] See Nina Mast & Jennifer Sherer, supra note 58.

[64] See Nina Mast & Jennifer Sherer, Iowa governor signs one of the most dangerous rollbacks of child labor laws in the country, Econ. Pol’y Inst.: Working Econ. Blog (Jun. 23, 2023), https://www.epi.org/blog/iowa-governor-signs-one-of-the-most-dangerous-rollbacks-of-child-labor-laws-in-the-country-14-states-have-now-introduced-bills-putting-children-at-risk/.

[65] See Jacob Bogag & María Luisa Paúl, supra note 61.

[66] See Chris Gilligan, supra note 8.

[67] Id.

[68] See Jacob Bogag & María Luisa Paúl, supra note 61.

[69] Id.

[70] Id.

[71] Id.

[72] See Ariana Figueroa, Kids at work: States try to ease child labor laws at behest of industry,  N.J. Monitor (Apr. 7, 2023, 2:31 PM), https://newjerseymonitor.com/2023/04/07/kids-at-work-states-try-to-ease-child-labor-laws-at-behest-of-industry/.

[73] See Cindy Gonzalez, Measures seek to change Nebraska’s new voter-approved minimum wage provisions,  Neb. Examiner (Jan. 24, 2023, 5:25 PM), https://nebraskaexaminer.com/2023/01/24/measures-seek-to-change-nebraskas-new-voter-approved-minimum-wage-provisions/.

[74] See Chris Marr, Florida Considers Business-Supported Child Labor Law Rollbacks, Bloomberg Law (Dec. 13, 2023, 4:59 PM), https://news.bloomberglaw.com/product/blaw/bloomberglawnews/exp/eyJpZCI6IjAwMDAwMThjLTY0OTItZDI3OS1hZGRmLTY2YjM1ZTE5MDAwMSIsImN0eHQiOiJETE5XIiwidXVpZCI6ImR0QmxnSk9SdkZhK1pHWTVmb3NiQlE9PU1HMzNrSkZhdGFDZ285bXNrNEkya2c9PSIsInRpbWUiOiIxNzAyNTU1NDQyNjYwIiwic2lnIjoiQU9WbnBBdEs0OVR1UUFuV3JPQVE5dFFWdTBnPSIsInYiOiIxIn0=?source=newsletter&item=read-text&region=digest.

[75] See Samir Knox, Bill in Senate would no longer require work permits for children to work, Fulton Sun (Feb. 15, 2023, 4:00 AM), https://www.fultonsun.com/news/2023/feb/15/bill-in-senate-would-no-longer-require-work/.

[76] See Brittany Carloni & Rachel Fradette, These 2024 session bills would ease Indiana’s child labor laws, Indy Star (Jan. 23, 2024, 5:35 AM), https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2024/01/23/these-2024-indiana-bills-would-ease-the-states-child-labor-laws/72315705007/.

[77]  See Lee Tucker, Finger to the Bone: United States Failure to protect child farmworkers (Human Rights Watch, 2000) (“In the House of Representatives, Representative Tom Lantos . . . has for the past twelve years introduced the ‘Young American Workers’ Bill of Rights.’”).

[78] See Cong. Rsch. Serv., RL31501, Child Labor in America: History, Pol’y, and Legis. Issues (2013).

[79] Id.

[80] See 2022 Illinois Legislative Debrief, Young Invincibles Blog (Apr. 26, 2022), https://younginvincibles.org/2022-illinois-legislative-debrief/; see also Young Workers Project, Univ. of Cal. at Berkeley: Labor Occupational Health Program, https://youngworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Young-Workers-Bill-of-Rights.DESIGN.pdf.

[81] See Andrea Hsu, supra note 52.

[82] See Andrea Hsu, supra note 52.

[83] See Cong. Rsch. Serv., supra note 77.

[84] See Press Release, supra note 53.

[85] See Press Release, Schatz Introduces New Bill To Help Stop Child Labor, Off. of Congressman Brian Schatz (Mar. 2, 2023), https://www.schatz.senate.gov/news/press-releases/schatz-introduces-new-bill-to-help-stop-child-labor.

[86] Id.

[87] See Press Release, On World Day Against Child Labor, Durbin, Delauro Introduce Bill To Ban Child Labor On Tobacco Farms, Off. of Senator Dick Durbin (Jun. 12, 2023),  https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/on-world-day-against-child-labor-durbin-delauro-introduce-bill-to-ban-child-labor-on-tobacco-farms.

[88] The Workers POWER Act, 118th Cong. (2023), https://mcgarvey.house.gov/imo/media/doc/workers_power_act_text.pdf.

[89] Preventing Child Labor Exploitation Act, 118th Cong. (2023), https://www.booker.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/preventing_child_labor_exploitation_act_2023.pdf.

[90] CHILD Labor Act, S.3163, 118th Cong. (2023).

[91] See Kaori Gurley, supra note 10.

[92] Id.

[93] See Press Release, Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services Announce New Efforts to Combat Exploitative Child Labor, Dep’t Health & Hum. Serv. (Feb. 27, 2023),   https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/02/27/departments-labor-and-health-and-human-services-announce-new-efforts-combat-exploitative-child-labor.html.

[94] Id.

[95] See Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Nonagricultural Occupations, supra note 40.

[96] Ensuring the Safety and WellBeing of Unaccompanied Children, U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing, 118th Cong. (Jun. 14, 2023) (statement of Terri Gerstein, Dir. State & Loc. Enf’t Project, Harvard Law School Ctr. for Lab. & Just Econ.) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2023-06-14%20-%20Testimony%20-%20Gerstein.pdf.