February 21, 2024

State Innovation Exchange and Economic Policy Institute Release Publication to Stop the Corporate Campaign to Roll Back Child Labor Protections

Screenshot 2024 02 21 at 2.46.41 PM

For Immediate Release: February 21, 2024

Contact: six@fenton.com

State Innovation Exchange and Economic Policy Institute Release Publication to Stop the Corporate Campaign to Roll Back Child Labor Protections

Washington, D.C. — Today, the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) along with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), released How States Can Stop the Corporate Campaign to Roll Back Child Labor Protections, a publication outlining how states can respond to the deregulation of child labor protections nationwide.

Since 2021, at least 61 bills to rollback child labor laws have been introduced in 29 states and at least 18 bills have been enacted in 13 states. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, there has been an 88% increase in children employed illegally since 2019, and a 14% increase in child labor violation cases between 2022 and 2023. Bills that weaken child labor protections are anti-worker and harm the most vulnerable children in this country, including migrant youth who are easily exploited by unscrupulous employers. 

In Iowa, legislation passed that would allow minors to work in hazardous conditions or for longer shifts during the school year. In Arkansas legislation was passed repealing work permit  requirements for children under 16 years of age. Right now, Florida and Indiana are among states considering rollbacks to child labor protections. These bills are just a few of the many examples. 

This publication proposes strategies that state lawmakers can employ focused on increasing protections for children, implementing effective enforcement against businesses that exploit children in violation of the law, and organizing against those who want to rollback child labor protections. State lawmakers have the power to put a stop to the plot to build an economy that allows businesses to profit on the backs of children, especially in the most dangerous jobs. SiX and EPI have been leading organizations against the state-by-state campaign to rollback child labor protections and are now sharing guidance through this publication in order to organize advocates and lawmakers to pass legislation that protects children and families from exploitation. 

“Every child in this country deserves an opportunity to thrive, to receive a good education, and to be safe from harm and exploitation. The insidious effort to rollback child labor protections state-by-state is an attack on our kids, on our families, our workplaces, and our schools. And it should be no surprise to anyone that the ultra-wealthy and big corporations are the folks targeting our kids for exploitation to line their own pockets,” said SiX Co-Executive Director Hon. Jessie Ulibarri. “SiX is uniquely positioned to help legislators respond to this crisis and implement policies that protect the health, safety, and education of our children – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”  

“At a moment when alarming violations of child labor laws are on the rise across the country, state legislatures have critical roles to play in strengthening weak, outdated child labor standards and improving job quality for workers of all ages,” said EPI Spokesperson Jennifer Sherer.

“The growing number of bills to dismantle child labor protections should be of concern to all of us, especially considering the number of young women working in the service industry,” said Rep. Megan Srinivas (IA). “In Iowa, the alcohol serving age was decreased, and now 16- and 17-year-old minors are allowed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages. Allowing patrons who have been drinking for hours around young women increases risk of sexual assault. Young people must be protected, not placed in potentially dangerous environments.”

“We established child labor laws and have been improving them for over a hundred years now. Kids should be learning in schools, not working in factories,” said Rep. J.D. Scholten (IA). “The fact that we've seen an uptick in child labor, especially in the meatpacking industry, should make us question what the hell we are doing."

“Our children deserve a state that funds their futures, not exploits them for corporate profits” said Rep. Angie Nixon (FL). “These proposals not only deny children the economic opportunity that comes from education— they put children’s physical safety at risk, making them vulnerable to deadly workplace injuries and sexual assault in the workplace. 

“All children, no matter how much money their families make, deserve the economic freedom that comes with quality education,” said Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (FL). “But proposals backed by corporations eroding child labor laws deny that freedom. They’re designed to take kids out of the classroom and into low-wage jobs for the rest of their lives. 

To read How States Can Stop the Corporate Campaign to Roll Back Child Labor Protections please visit https://stateinnovation.org/childlabor/.


State Innovation Exchange (SiX) was founded as a nonpartisan, national resource and strategy center for state legislators working to move bold public policy that builds an equitable, resilient, and prosperous country for all. SiX provides state-based technical assistance, public policy research, skill and issue-based trainings, communications and polling support, convenings, and strategy sessions with state legislators, power builders, and policy advocates on a wide array of public policy topics.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security. To achieve this goal, EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America. EPI proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers.

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