Looking out for kids? Nah. The Youth Hiring Act of 2023 is now the law of the land in Arkansas.
This bill is very short, and the only change it makes to the law is to repeal the requirement of an employment certificate for a child under 16 to have a job. The certificate required proof of age, a description of the work being done, and parent or guardian signature. The Governor’s office claims the bill is to “remove unnecessary burdens” on parents and kids who want to get jobs. Notice again the administration’s much-loved and over-used “parent empowerment” rhetoric.
The reality is, the burden for obtaining and holding a certificate of employment is on the employer, particularly during the process of hiring. The employer is the party held accountable for a child working without a permit in their business. The intent of Sanders’s bill is to “streamline the hiring process for children under sixteen (16) years of age.” Streamlining the hiring process benefits employers, not the children being hired or their parents.
Illegal child labor in the US is on the rise, and lawmakers are under pressure to loosen child labor laws to help industries address workforce shortages. But child labor can seriously jeopardize the health of kids, says the Baylor College of Medicine. The US Department of Labor is also addressing the issue by cracking down on businesses and industries that illegally employ children. Axios reports that in the last year, over 800 companies illegally employed more than 3,800 children, per Labor Department statistics.
Consequently, Sanders and her team have a heavy messaging lift: turn a big industry/child labor bill into “parental empowerment” legislation. Her comms team has given Arkansans more spin around the issue than we can keep up with. The legislation is being accurately reported nationwide as having rolled back child labor laws, but the negative press has thrown a wrench in the governor’s messaging campaign. Now her closest twitter warriors are coming to the rescue with the language we have come to expect in her short few months in office.
The core message from Sanders’ taxpayer-funded tweeters is this:
- We didn’t repeal child labor laws; we just made it easier for children to get jobs.
- 14 other states are doing it, so get off our backs.
Are we to believe that kids and parents lobbied legislators to repeal this protective barrier between Arkansas’s children and exploitation? No way. It’s far more likely that employers wanted to hire kids, the cheapest workers in the workforce, quickly and easily. It’s nice to see Arkansans seeing straight through this misleading rhetoric.