The industrial revolution prompted major advancements in the human condition, but the rise was far from steady. As machine driven work required less adult strength, children became an opportunity for the new industrialists. By 1810, over 2 million kids were working hours that would not be tolerated by adults today. 50 hour weeks were considered the norm, but a 70 hour work week was not an uncommon requirement of youngsters.
Safety conditions were unregulated and factories were sometimes unhealthy places. Children as young as 7 were employed in mills, mines, and manufacturing. Kids had often worked on family farms before, but this was a whole new level of hard, hard, hard.
Proposals for reform were considered pretty radical by conservatives. The demand of reformers for a 14 year minimum age for kids working in factories was still resisted when the 1900s rolled around. By 1914, only three states required that kids under 16 be required to work no more than 8 hours a day. There was movement to require kids be given some education, but that was not a fact of life for most children who showed up for work every day.
In 1940 a White House task force recommended changes. Only children 16 or older could be employed during school hours. Outside of school hours, employers still could get by with hiring kids as young as 14, but that was an improvement. For work that was truly dangerous, workers would have to be at least 18. The big step was that kids under 18 could not be worked more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day.
Things have tightened up a lot since the days of Oliver Twist. It is hard to find, even among conservatives, any conviction that Government regulation is bad when it comes to protecting kids.
Hard, but not impossible.
Here in Missouri, Republicans are moving to eliminate those bothersome regulations. Here's the actual summary as written by the bill's sponsors. The emphasis is mine:
SB 222 – This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed. Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.
State Senator Jane Cunningham (R-Dickens Novels) is the main sponsor. "My aim is to put back some common sense. We're not doing students any favor by telling them, 'You cannot work.' " She goes on to explain that she wants to help parents in "teaching a work ethic to their children."
I will have to move to Missouri and that will be painful, but it's worth it.
I am going to start a factory. I am not sure what I will produce, but I have a name: "Papa's Workforce."
If anyone wants to go into business with me, I am now looking for a partner, preferably female if you want to maximize your contributions.
To anyone I may have offended, please forgive my entrepreneurial spirit.
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