Child labor bills in Iowa might grease the skids for human trafficking but that’s not apparently a concern for sponsors. The approach for changes in child labor in Iowa is to allow employment by those who are underage in prohibited jobs so long as the employment is part of a training program.

Children under the age of 18 could not hold jobs in slaughterhouses, meatpacking, or rendering plants along with other jobs involving the operation of dangerous machinery.

Homeland Security is reportedly investigating possible Human Tracking schemes involving the meat industry. Those reports came after it was disclosed that at least 13 meat industry plants in eight states were employing children, including some who were working at night to clean slaughter operations, which has food safety implications.

The Labor Department imposed monetary penalties totaling $1.5 million on a labor contractor who placed more than 100 children into those hazardous meat industry jobs at plants run by such industry leaders as Tyson, JBS, and Cargill.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD, based in Kieler, WI, one of the nation’s largest food safety sanitation services providers paid the civil money penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the company employed at least 102 children – from 13 to 17 years of age – in those hazardous occupations.

The midwest is experiencing a severe labor shortage and weaker child labor laws are seen as a solution to some. The main change would create a loophole for children ages 14-17 who are “participating in work-based learning or school or employer-administered work-related programs.”

The proposed legislation would also exempt employers from civil liability if the child is sickened, injured, or killed because of negligence by the business. The state could fine the business, but that penalty is capped at $10,000.

The bill would also permit 16 and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol so long as they have the written permission of their parents. They could also work as late as 11 p.m. during summer months.

Unions and parents are opposing reductions in child labor laws. They marched in the capitol rotunda last week chanting “our kids are not for sale.”

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