“Enforcement of child labor laws is a joint responsibility, with the Labor Department working with state agencies. But powerful restaurant industry lobbyists are pushing to roll back state child labor laws, in some cases below federal standards, The Post found. In five states, local affiliates of the National Restaurant Association have recently lobbied for laws that would either extend hours or times of day that teens can legally work or lower the age requirements for serving alcohol below 18 years. Legislation that would weaken existing child labor laws has been introduced in 19 states over the past three years often as an industry-backed solution to labor shortages.
“Child labor violations have ballooned amid a historically tight labor market that emerged after the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of service sector workers abandoned riskier, public-facing jobs at fast-food chains and other restaurants for better-paying and less-grueling opportunities. Teenagers stepped up to fill the gap, marking a generational shift in attitudes toward working in high school. As inflation soared, many teenagers said, they wanted to help their families pay skyrocketing rent, groceries and utility bills.”
Many child labor violations occur in franchises under financial pressure to pay fees to parent corporations.
“The inquiry comes after The New York Times Magazine published last week a harrowing account of a 14-year-old boy, Marcos Cux, whose arm was nearly torn off while working at a Perdue slaughterhouse on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”
Advocates are pushing the Virginia legislature to increase enforcement and penalties for violations of child labor laws. According to the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, 13 staff in the state labor department are responsible for enforcing all labor laws in the state of nine million residents, including wage and hour standards. More staff are needed for effective enforcement.