Child Labor Prevention Act comes after Wisconsin food safety fined company for illegally employing more than 100 children
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined her colleagues in introducing new legislation to help stop illegal child labor. The Child Labor Prevention Act would increase maximum fines for violations and establish new criminal penalties to deter child labor and hold employers accountable.
“In no world is it acceptable for employers to be making money off child labor and our laws must reflect that by cracking down on the exploitation of children,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to support the Child Labor Prevention Act because it will help keep our kids safe and hold these bad actors accountable.”
Since 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has seen a 69 percent increase in children being employed illegally. This is due to companies increasingly circumventing child labor laws to fill positions, which is expected to worsen due to the tight labor market. Because of this crisis, on Monday the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services announced a new effort to combat exploitative child labor, including a call for Congress to increase civil monetary penalties. Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) imposes weak fines for violations, making it financially easier for companies to skirt child labor laws.
Recently, a Wisconsin based company was penalized for illegally employing more than 100 children in hazardous occupations, such as working with chemicals and cleaning meat processing equipment.
In addition, last month, DOL announced it found more than 100 children across eight states cleaning dangerous meat processing equipment using hazardous chemicals for a contractor of major meat producer JBS Foods. While several child workers were injured on the job, DOL levied its maximum fine, just $15,138 for each count.
In some instances, employers have also begun classifying children as independent contractors, using a loophole in the FLSA that prohibits the employment of minors, but allows companies to use them as independent contractors.
To stop child labor and hold employers accountable, the Child Labor Prevention Act would:
In addition to Senator Baldwin, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).