Iowa Senate passes legislation changing child labor standards

(WOI-DT) – The Iowa Senate has passed a proposal to allow younger teenagers to work in more industries. 

Under current Iowa law, there are several jobs that teenagers aren’t allowed to do, like manufacturing and operating heavy machinery. But, the proposed bill, Senate File 542, would allow for exceptions to that during certain circumstances.

Under the new bill, Iowa teens between 14-and-17-years-old would be able to work in those restricted industries if it’s part of a “work-based learning program” approved by Iowa Workforce Development or the Iowa Department of Education. They would also need a parent or guardian’s written permission to take the job.

The Iowa Senate passed the bill 32-to-17 Monday night.

Critics of the proposal don’t believe Iowa should be filling gaps in the workforce with young workers at all.

“This happens all over the place, all over this state all over this country. The answer isn’t to change the law to make that right, it’s to protect kids in dangerous occupations and make sure that they’re not doing those,” said Charlie Wishman, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO.

However, supporters argue the bill would ease staffing concerns for struggling Iowa employers.

In a statement to ABC station WOI-DT in Des Moines, the Iowa Association of Business & Industry, which has filed in support of the bill, said: “ABI supports revising qualifications and age restrictions for age-appropriate employment, thus our support for the bill. We’re working with policymakers and stakeholders to advance legislation that achieves that goal.”

According to the most recent data from Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s unemployment rate fell to 2.9% in February, slightly under the national rate of 3.6%. Some worry that passing this legislation will make it harder to keep up that progress.

“We should be paying attention to what the pay, what the benefits are for adults, what the working conditions are for adults, and there’s so many things that we can do to attract people and workers to Iowa,” Wishman added.