Republican Iowa governor rolls back state’s child labor law protections | Iowa

Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, has signed a bill that rolls back several child labor law protections in the midwestern state, including how many hours children can work and at what type of establishments.

Iowa and several other states in the US have loosened regulations on child labor in response to some businesses complaining about a workforce shortage. The moves have been met with widespread criticism by Democrats and labor groups.

Reynolds signed the legislation on Friday, which was approved by lawmakers in May with only Republican support, reported the Associated Press. Democrats and other critics warned that the bill could causes businesses to exploit children and distract minors from school.

“With this legislation Iowa joins 20 other states in providing tailored, common sense labor provisions that allow young adults to develop their skills in the workforce,” Reynolds said in a statement.

Under Iowa’s new law, 14- and 15-year-olds are allowed to work two extra hours per day during the school year, a total of six hours. 14- and 15-year olds are also allowed to do certain type of works that were previously banned, including work in industrial laundry services, freezers, and meat coolers, CNN reported.

At the same time 16- and 17-year-olds will be permitted to work the same hours as adults. Teenagers as young as 16 can also now serve alcohol in restaurants, as long as employers have permission from the minor’s parent or guardian. The change in law could allow children to operate heavy machinery such as power saws, or join in on demolition projects, AP reported.

Two adults are required to be present when children are serving alcohol. Minor employees also have to complete a “training on prevention and response to sexual harassment”, reported CNN.

Children as young as 16 can now also work in areas including manufacturing, with an exemption from the Iowa department of education or Iowa workforce development as long as its part of a work-based learning program.

Reynolds also signed several other laws on Friday, including a ban on school materials about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Iowa’s loosening of child labor laws comes amid high-profile cases in several states, as Republicans across the US attempt to roll back child labor laws amid increasing violations.

A May investigation by the US Department of Labor found that several McDonalds franchises in Kentucky violated child labor laws, including using at least two 10-year-olds for unpaid labor, often until 2am.

In February, a separate investigation found that over 100 children were illegally employed at a slaughterhouse cleaning plant, working with dangerous chemicals and equipment, including saws.

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