Arkansas is now reliably a daily butt of late-night talkshow hosts, national journalists and all of your out-of-state friends.
The evergreen question is: What insane thing did our state government do today that people outside the Natural State aren’t going to be able to wrap their heads around?
While the relentless and heartless assaults on already-suffering transgender youth are the violations most likely to drive children to mental anguish and suicide, it’s elected officials’ willingness to roll back child labor protections so their corporate benefactors can fill minimum-wage jobs more easily that seems to be getting the most national attention.
Today, writer Tesnim Zekeria with Popular Information examines the new Arkansas law that lets 14- and 15-year-olds in Arkansas go to work without permits. The Youth Hiring Act of 2023, signed into law by Gov. Sarah Sanders last week, means the state will no longer be verifying that kids are old enough to take the job or that the hours and working conditions are safe and age-appropriate.
Zekeria notes that this rollback of protections for kids comes mere weeks after the U.S. Department of Labor announced they’d busted two Arkansas meat factories for hiring children for overnight cleaning shifts. Oh, and instances of child labor violations have been on a steady rise in recent years.
The governor’s spin doctors say this new state law removes government from parents’ and families’ decisions. It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s paid any attention at all to how Sanders operates that in fact, the law does not do this at all.
The Youth Hiring Act of 2023 cuts both parents and government protections out of the equation, freeing up young people to take jobs without parents’ permission and without government safeguards in place.
The sponsor of the Youth Hiring Act, state Rep. Rebecca Burkes (R-Lowell), described the law in terms of parents rights, saying it would remove the need for parents to get “permission from the government” for their child to work. But the new law actually disempowers parents. Before, a parent would need to sign a child’s employment certificate. Now, kids under 16 can work without any involvement from their parent or legal guardian.
You can read the piece in its entirety here, but you might have to subscribe to the Popular Information substack first.
This erosion of protections for child laborers caught the eye of Stephen Colbert last week.
The Popular Information story comes on the day after Joy Reid eviscerated Arkansas’s own Dolores Umbridge, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), for talking over, interrupting and cutting off Little Rock Central High students who came to the Capitol to oppose the Arkansas LEARNS school privatization bill. Looks like Newsweek hates English too.