Child labor in the US

Like most workplace accidents, the tragedy that took place at a Wisconsin sawmill in June didn’t have to happen. In fact, Michael Schuls, a high school student who had turned 16 just weeks before his death, should never have been trying to unjam a stick stacker machine at Florence Hardwoods in the first place.

So concluded the Department of Labor, which on Dec. 19 announced a nearly $1.4 million fine against the mill where Schuls was fatally injured. An investigation by the agency’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Florence Hardwoods let several minors, including Schuls, perform maintenance on equipment without training and without following required safety procedures.

Florence Hardwoods disputes the agency’s allegations that it let minors operate and maintain dangerous machinery without training or safety procedures. “At no time did we intentionally put minors in harms’ way,” the company told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement.

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Wow. I am so glad to hear that.

Child laborers in Mexico are better protected than that, so long as they are not employed by narcotraficantes.

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I thought that was an interesting thing for the company to say.

Same sort of blather we always hear from corporate PR “we take the health/lives of our customers/employees very seriously” (except when it costs us anything).

As for hiring teenagers “illegally”, we have seen several of the Shinier states change the law to allow younger kids to work more hours at more types of jobs, legally, most likely because the “JCs” want a plentiful supply of cheap, easily exploited, labor. What that kid was doing in Wisconsin, is probably legal in Iowa.

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That’s just sad legalese dressed up in umbrage, no defense for greed and bad management.

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The NYT put out a great article today - https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/28/us/migrant-child-labor-audits.html

Great report by David Weil - [“This Ancient Atrocity”: The Return of Child Labor in the United States: Why Now? What Should be Done? | Ash Center]

There are multiple bipartisan bills being proposed in Congress to increase accountability. Could have a big impact on multiple industries.

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