Iowa children will be allowed to work longer hours, including in currently prohibited jobs such as serving alcohol, under a bill passed by the Iowa Senate early Tuesday morning after a marathon session.
The Senate voted 32-17 just before 5 a.m. Tuesday to pass it Senate File 542. Two Republicans, Sens. Charlie McClintock, R-Alburnette, and Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux center, broke away from their colleagues to join every Democrat in opposition.
The House must still pass the bill before it goes to Governor Kim Reynolds for his signature.
Republican backers of the law said it would modernize Iowa laws and teach children valuable skills through workforce training programs.
“While the responsibility of having a job may be more valuable than having a paycheck, the paycheck will allow those young people who want a job to save up to buy a car, maybe buy a prom dress, and go to summer camp,” said Sen. Adrian Dickey, R. Packwood. Bill, floor manager.
Democrats argued that the bill would increase the risk of work accidents by exposing inexperienced children to more dangerous work environments. They have tried unsuccessfully to amend the law to provide additional workers’ compensation benefits to teens who are injured on the job.
“You don’t like it being described as a child labor bill, but your bill talks about child injury in the workplace,” said Senator Nate Bolton, R-Des Moines. “So let’s make it about taking care of injured kids while working these jobs, because that will happen.”
The senators stayed up late Monday night and into the wee hours of Tuesday morning before the bill was passed at 4:52 a.m. The delay came after Dickey refused to give in to a question from Democrats about amending the law.
The Democrats then went to a special caucus meeting, breaking up the debate. Later, Senate Republicans drafted amendments to address some of the concerns Democrats were trying to raise.
The proposal drew condemnation from labor unions, who staged protests across the state in an attempt to stop it.
The US Department of Labor’s top attorney, labor attorney Seema Nanda, has criticized bills like those in Iowa and other states, calling them “irresponsible for states if they consider relaxing child labor protections.”
more:The federal chief labor attorney is critical of child labor bills like the one proposed in Iowa
Republican Reynolds spoke positively about the law earlier this month. She referred to her own experience babysitting, waiting tables and working in Yonkers when she was young.
“This is a good experiment,” she told reporters on April 4. “You know, it teaches kids a lot and if they have the time to do it and want to make some extra money, I don’t think we should be discouraged.”
“In the end, parents and children will decide whether or not they want to work.”
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll from March found that 50% support the proposal, while 42% oppose it and 8% are unsure.
What would your Iowa child labor bill do?
The bill would allow directors of the Iowa Department of Education or Iowa Workforce Development to make exceptions that allow 14- to 17-year-olds to work in jobs currently prohibited for minors, as long as they are part of an approved training program with enough supervision and safety precautions.
If the bill becomes law, 16- and 17-year-olds would be allowed to serve alcohol in restaurants, as long as the business owner has written permission from the child’s parent or guardian.
more:Iowa Poll: 50% support easing child labor laws to open more jobs, and expanding hours
The Senate amended the law early Tuesday to say that minors cannot serve alcoholic beverages in bars. An earlier version of the bill would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in both bars and restaurants.
“The intention was not to put minors in the drinks of Tom’s Tavern Swingers, but to allow these young men to work at Renee’s,” Dickey said.
The Senate also amended the bill on Tuesday to clarify that 16- and 17-year-olds cannot work in strip clubs, though Senate Republicans said that was not allowed under the current law.
The bill would allow children under 16 to work up to six hours a day, two hours more than the current maximum of four hours a day. They can work longer in the evenings – until 9 pm during the school year and up to 11 pm during the summer.
Children between the ages of 16 and 17 can work the same number of hours per day as adults.
It will also set up a committee to study the possibility of allowing teens 14 and over to obtain a special driver’s permit to drive to work. An earlier version of the bill would have simply allowed the new type of permit for teens.
Students who are 14 years of age or older can already obtain a special permit to drive to school.
The bill states that teens injured on the job can seek benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. The initial version did not include this protection for minors who could be harmed at work.
The bill also abolished old provisions in the current law that allowed children between the ages of 10 and 13 to work on the streets such as selling newspapers or working conditions for immigrants.
more:‘Our Babies Are Not For Sale’: Unions protest proposed changes to Iowa’s child labor law