The child-labor-law fight

THE CHILD-LABOR-LAW FIGHT…. There’s something disturbing about even having to type that headline. It is, after all, the 21st century, and the very idea that child-labor laws would be subjected to additional debate seems ridiculous.

And yet, here we are. In Maine, the National Employment Law Project and the progressive Maine People’s Alliance have a new commercial up, letting voters know, “Gov. Paul LePage wants to roll back child labor laws. He supports legislation to have kids work longer hours, later at night and for less than minimum wage.”

The ad happens to be true. As Amanda Terkel explained, new proposals pending in Maine, which enjoy LePage’s support, would allow employers to pay workers under 20 well below the minimum wage for their first 180 days on the job. The bills would also change labor laws to allow minors to work later at night, more hours per week, and eliminates “the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows anyone under the age of 16 to labor for up to four hours on a school day during hours when classes are not in session.”

What’s more, Ian Millhiser recently noted, there are related, ongoing efforts elsewhere to undermine child-labor laws, including a pending bill in Missouri, and as we talked about in January, a sitting U.S. Senator, Utah’s Mike Lee (R), has argued that federal child-labor laws violate the Constitution and shouldn’t even exist.

Remember when there were accepted political norms that helped define the American mainstream? Basic policy tenets that both major parties accepted, largely without question?

I don’t know when or if those days are coming back.