January 17, 2024

100 Groups Call on Florida Lawmakers to Reject Bills Rolling Back Child Labor Protections

Letter to State Leaders Notes That 80,000 Teens Could Be Impacted Under HB 49

FLORIDA - A group of concerned community-based nonprofits, children’s advocacy organizations, and others today called on the Florida Legislature to reject legislation (HB 49/SB 1596 and SB 460/HB 917) that — in its current form — would put the health and safety of Florida youth at risk by rolling back long held protections in the state’s child labor law.  

The letter to state leaders, which includes 100 signatories, notes that HB 49, which passed its second committee on January 10,  would allow employers to schedule 16- and 17-year-olds for more than 30 hours a week, without breaks, and for more than six days in a row — whether during school months or not. According to research from the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI), who spearheaded the sign-on letter, this bill could jeopardize the well-being of 80,000 youth workers, 76 percent of whom are also in school.

The letter states that the second bill, SB 460/HB 917, includes “several promising provisions" that would "expose teens to technical and skilled trade opportunities as an alternative to college and professional career routes"; however, the signatories emphasized that they cannot support the bill in its current form, as it also would allow — even as amended today — teens aged 16 and 17 to work on or near roofing. Even working near a roof (i.e., on the ground) is hazardous and prohibited for minors by federal law.

FPI, the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) spoke on research pointing to the dangers of undoing child labor protections during a virtual press conference this morning.

Alexis Tsoukalas, policy analyst at FPI, said: “Florida is already dangerous for teen workers — our analysis shows that child labor violations have nearly tripled since 2019. Further, HB 49 would empower employers, not Florida’s youth. Migrant workers and those experiencing poverty, historically marginalized groups, are the least likely to be able to turn down more hours or quit.”

Debbie Berkowitz, practitioner fellow, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said: “Let's be clear-- workers get killed on or around roofing jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent reports found that roofing has the second highest fatality rate of any industry in the United States. Workers get killed on roofing jobs at more than 15 times the average for all industries. Further, employers must follow the federal law. If this legislation passes, employers that put kids to work on or near roofing jobs will be in violation of federal law.”

Nina Mast, state economic analyst at EPI, said: “When it comes to HB 49 and SB 460, Floridians aren’t asking for these changes – a recent poll found that 72 percent of registered voters oppose weakening child labor protections in the state. So, who is? It's employers in industries that profit most from expanded access to low-wage child labor who are pushing to weaken child labor protections – in part to legalize the violations they are already committing."

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