Evidently not. Sure, the Wisconsin unemployment rate was at 7.4% in April, which is low compared to the national figures. I guess I’m a bit more concerned than the Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature. Unemployment in Racine is 8.9%. Those Republicans, at the behest of special interests, have decided to react to high unemployment figures by changing child labor laws in the state to allow students to work longer hours. In short, they are going to flood the workforce with laborers instead of focussing to create jobs. Here’s some info about those special interests who are pulling the strings, from the Cap Times:
The proposed changes — pushed by the Wisconsin Grocers Association — were included in a lengthy motion authored by Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and approved along party lines June 3 by the panel. They never received a public hearing and are now part of the proposed biennial state budget.
“When the new administration came in, we asked our members what could be changed to help their businesses. And they said child labor laws,” says Michelle Kussow, the grocers association’s vice president of governmental affairs and communications. “We are ecstatic,” she adds of the 12-4 vote by the Joint Finance Committee.
There’s a lot there to write about. I could write about the explosion in special interest power in Wisconsin, where they are practically writing the budget, I could write about how this simply shouldn’t be under the Joint Finance Committee’s purview, as it has nothing to do with finance (I suppose this is no more inconguous in a budget bill than is the concealed weapons bill), but to me this is far more about the reversal of accepted American values. This is about Republicans going backwards, again.
Sure, child welfare and child labor laws were first brought to us by progressives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in response to the horrific conditions children were facing in the workplace. This is personal to me. Those kids to the right are from a coal mine in Pennsylvania, but I’ve got a picture on my desk of my father from the times he went and worked in the zinc mines in Oklahoma when he was ten. We all want our kids to grow up better than we did, and my father, a staunch Republican, certainly supported child labor laws so that his kids didn’t suffer through the workdays he suffered through. We all desire better for our children, but this law takes us backwards. “Backwards” is a Republican theme, eh? Or is this merely another swipe at organized labor? No, the Republicans (it isn’t just Wisconsin Republicans) don’t have the sense of history to know that regulating child labor was historically one of the biggest successes of organized labor.
I’m disgusted. No, I don’t expect headlines about child miners or about seven year olds forced to work in dangerous conditions. This is just a first step, and it does not provide for those horrors. Yet. But we cannot predict how far the Republicans running the Joint Finance Committee will go in dismantling such basic worker protections as child labor laws, as beholden as they have shown themselves to be to special interests. This is the dismal prospect we face in the Badger State until we recall some of these Republicans.
In the meantime, I’m the father of a two and a half year old, and if anyone is interested in employing him, give me a call. You’ll interrupt my reading about child labor, but I’ll be pleased to listen.