On Thursday, the Florida House of Representatives advanced legislation that would permit 16 and 17-year-olds to work the same hours as adults by relaxing limits on child labor. Democrats made multiple fruitless attempts to change the idea.
The action coincides with state legislatures controlled by the Republican Party attempting to weaken child labor regulations in sectors including food and roofing.
16 and 17-year-olds are allowed to work up to eight hours per day and thirty hours per week under current legislation. Companies are required to provide them breaks every four hours.
Under HB 49, which would subject teenagers to the same break requirements as adults, that would also alter. However, there wouldn’t be any official guidelines for worker breaks in Florida.
If the plan is signed into law, those 16 and 17-year-olds would be able to work more than six days in a row. Republicans have defended the action as a way to provide kids with options for professional advancement.
“I find it unbelievable that eliminating the 30-hour threshold is such a major hassle. It’s not. 99% of the children, in my opinion, probably won’t work more than 30 hours a week. They have other responsibilities, such as their social lives, school, and time spent with their parents and friends. However, our children are not victims, said Hernando and Pasco County Republican Representative Jeff Holcomb. “They’re capable of self-defense, and guess what? If they are having problems, they can speak with their parents. They will acquire time management skills, a strong work ethic, and an understanding of the dollar.
Democrats expressed concern that the plan will expose pupils to exploitative tactics and impair their academic achievement.
“Our children are dreamers, thinkers, and the very embodiment of our state’s future promise. They are not just little adults prepared to shoulder the hardships of life.” Children are discovering their passions, developing their abilities, and learning the principles that will shape their character everywhere in our state, according to Orange County Democratic Representative Lavon Bracy Davis. “They are devotedly involved in extracurricular and academic endeavors that bring them delight and kindle interests that last a lifetime. By putting the burden of work on their shoulders, we are putting out these fires before they have a chance to really catch fire.
Democrats offered nine amendments, but none of them received enough votes to alter the plan. A few of those revisions would have mandated that companies provide work breaks to minors every five hours, implement measures to minimize heat exhaustion and maintain documentation of instances of sexual harassment that occur in the workplace.
As a legislative body, we talk a lot about protecting children, yet we’re making it more likely that kids will be used as cheap labor. They are so deserving of better. Representative Rita Harris, a Democrat from Orange, stated, “I wrote an amendment that would protect them from deadly heat exposure, and yet it was voted down.”
The bill’s Republican proponent, Hillsborough, and Pinellas Representative Linda Chaney, argued that Florida would still have stricter laws against child labor than the federal government, even after the revisions. Since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, federal laws about child labor have remained unchanged.
“Yes, we are conforming to federal labor laws, but our standards remain higher.” According to Chaney, “I have not yet heard one person go to Washington and say we need to change the federal labor laws.”
Employers, she claimed, would not take advantage of children since it is more expensive to acquire a new employee than to keep an existing one.
The choice and opportunity this bill offers families is important. I have faith that our families and our teenagers will decide what’s best for them in their unique circumstances. The market is quite competitive. As a small company owner, Chaney stated, “If we do not treat our employees the way they want to be treated, whether it has to do with breaks, working hours, or days off, they will leave.”
“As a business owner, hiring, recruiting, and training new hires is far more expensive and cumbersome than maintaining an existing staff. Therefore, the worker is in charge. I disagree that someone who is 16 or 17 years old cannot comprehend that. They exchange messages with one another. Employers who treat their employees the way they want to be treated will attract their attention.