Trump Administration Quietly Rolling Back Child Labor Laws

When Trump says he wants to “make America great again,” apparently he doesn’t mean taking the country back to the 1950’s like many believe but instead pre-1938 when the nation began to realize that child labor was a bad thing.

Trump’s Labor Department announced plans to undo many protections for children working in hazardous conditions. Bloomberg Law reports:

The DOL will propose relaxing current rules—known as Hazardous Occupations Orders (HOs)—that prohibit 16- and 17-year-old apprentices and student learners from receiving extended, supervised training in certain dangerous jobs, said the two sources. That includes roofing work, as well as operating chainsaws, and various other power-driven machines that federal law recognizes as too dangerous for youth younger than 18.

The sources’ accounts were corroborated by a summary of a draft regulation obtained by Bloomberg Law.

While it may at first glance appear that the DOL intends to “safely launch more family-sustaining careers by removing current regulatory restrictions on the amount of time that apprentices and student learners may perform HO-governed work” as they say in their summary of the changes, but it’s important to remember that young people are almost always paid less for their work than others. This allows businesses to exploit younger workers, placing them at greater risk for injuries and fatalities, all to save a buck.

Obviously, anyone with a working brain disagrees with the DOL’s claim that this will increase opportunity safely.

“When you find 16-year-olds running a meat slicer or a mini grinder or a trash compactor, we know kids are severely injured in those circumstances,” former Wage and Hour Division senior official Michael Hancock said in response to the upcoming regulation changes “That’s why the laws exist in the first place.”

“Now we’re saying, ‘We’re going to open those hazards up to kids; we hope that the employer is going to follow the law to a T and make sure the kid is being closely supervised,’” Hancock says. “I think that stretches credulity to think that’s how it’s actually going to work.”

“When I started doing this kind of work 20 years ago, we were losing 70 kids a year at work, and now we are losing usually 20 or less,” Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, told Bloomberg Law. “We’ve made substantial progress, and I think that the tightened hazardous occupations rules have played a role in the lowered death tolls for teenage workers. So I would not be in favor of relaxing any of these standards; I think it would be a tragic mistake and would lead to the death of teenage workers.”

But none of the safety issues matter to Trump or the DOL under his leadership. After all, cheap labor is cheap labor.