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Stop playing — get a job, kids
May. 22, 2023 6:00 am
I have given up looking for needles in haystacks. When I moved here a couple of years ago, I figured it would be a local sport, a good hobby, and a way to meet people. Finding a haystack wasn’t always easy since I don’t drive. The needles were useless if you didn’t sew. I decided I needed a more challenging hobby.
I began to look for sensible Republicans in the Legislature. I discovered they are tougher to find than needles, but not quite impossible, and more satisfying when I have. I’m up to two, but it’s only been five years. I expect that will become a more difficult task since the governor has led almost all Republicans in the Legislature to loosen child labor laws in Iowa. She has, for no adequate public policy imperative, marched us backward, ignoring Republican involvement from the beginning.
As industry grew after the Civil War, children as young as 10, occasionally younger, worked not only in factories but also on farms, and in meatpacking plants. They were mini-adults doing adult jobs. One historian has written. “As industry grew in the period following the Civil War, children often as young as 10 were working in adult work.”
Many people ultimately found the system cruel, the victims, many not yet teenagers, exploited and lives endangered. Child labor laws passed in 1916 were led by Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate and signed into law by Democrat Woodrow Wilson. The laws are there for a reason: to protect children from abuse in the workplace and prevent injury and death. At that time, as we became an industrial economy, hundreds of thousands of workers were annually injured on the job. An estimated 25,000 to 35, 0000 were children.
Republicans with a social heart made change possible. Child labor was not to be defined by those who considered a fast buck first and decency second. Gov. Kim Reynolds has encouraged a return to the bad old days.
In our state, you must be 21 to have a drink in a bar. Under the Reynolds doctrine, you can be 17 to serve it in a restaurant. Does anyone think a macho teenager won’t give in to the urge to slug down a jigger or two with older fellas at the bar? Alcoholism starts with access and can result in a lifetime of misery. Reasonable Republicans and Democrats have kept teenagers out of bars for good reason and now Kim Reynolds has produced a welcome mat for no reason.
The Governor and her allies have also produced more. Here is a description of other parts of their “reform.” “Under the bill 14 and 15 year-olds could work later, until 9 p.m. during the school year and 11 p.m. in the summer. With this bill, they would also be allowed to work six hours a day during the school year instead of the current four hours …” 14- and 15-year-olds can now work in freezers and meat coolers and do light assembly work.
Sen. Zach Wahls, a Democrat, says, “Roofing, excavation and demolition are some of the deadliest occupations for adults, to say nothing of teenagers. No Iowa teenager should be working in America's most dangerous jobs."
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”
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