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Newt Gingrich and Child Labor

Newt Gingrich is an interesting man to say the least. In keeping with the determination of the GOP opposition to organized labor, he has come up with a proposal to fire school janitors and replace them with child laborers. He faults “the core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization” for “crippling” children, telling a Harvard audience, “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid.” He seriously contends that “most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school.” [The Nation]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics janitors earn a mean wage of $13.74 an hour, or $28,570 a year. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said, “The people [Gingrich] want to fire and replace with kids? A lot of them are parents. That job puts a roof over kids’ heads, food on the table, and provides them with healthcare and the chance to get an education. That job is the only thing between a kid and poverty.”

Gingrich seeks to return us to the Victorian era which was notorious for employing young children in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps. I suppose it would teach kids how to work—schooling is cast to the back burner. It might even help Gingrich earn the “job creator” moniker. Unionized janitors are just too expensive. Kids could be used to work at a far lesser hourly wage. Probably could hire 3-4 kids at the cost of a single unionized adult janitor. That would increase jobs wouldn’t it? [Wikipedia]

It would be a start. Since Gingrich specified these kids are entrapped in the “poorest neighborhoods,” he must be excluding the kids from working that live in privileged neighborhoods. Schools in privileged neighborhoods apparently don’t employ unionized janitors. No point in firing janitors that aren’t unionized nor worry about rich kids needing to learn how to work.

Just think, the Gingrich plan could re-institute a movement back to the days when kids worked in cotton-mills, coal mines, sweatshops or as domestic servants. It might even speed up the current trend of dividing the American population into two groups—those that have and those that don’t. I read in a local newspaper last week that Nye County’s population has 18.7% below the federal poverty level according to the 2010 Census. That must be welcome news to the Nye County School District—plenty of kids to choose from to replace their unionized janitors.

All one has to do is elect Newt Gingrich President of the United States and we’re on our way to toward erasing poverty—saved by our kids. Don’t laugh at that—Gingrich is leading the GOP’s Presidential candidates so he must have a lot of support in the Republican Party—anything to beat President Obama in 2012.

Since the military draft has been replaced with a volunteer system, those underprivileged kids can always opt to join up when their janitorial jobs peter out. The privileged class no longer has to worry that their kids will get drafted.

Think that the idea of using child labor is beyond achievement. Think again. In 1916, the National Child Labor Committee and the National Consumers League successfully pressured the US Congress to pass the Keating-Owen Act, the first federal child labor law. However, the US Supreme Court struck down the law two years later in Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918), declaring that the law violated a child’s right to contract his or her own labor. In 1924, Congress attempted to pass a constitutional amendment that would authorize a national child labor law. This measure was blocked, and the bill was eventually dropped.

It took the Great Depression to end child labor nationwide; adults had become so desperate for jobs that they would work for the same wage as children. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which, among other things, placed limits on many forms of child labor. [Wikipedia-Child Labor Laws]

According to a 2009 petition by Human Rights Watch: “Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States, often working 10 or more hours a day. They are often exposed to dangerous pesticides, experience high rates of injury, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of other working youth. Their long hours contribute to alarming drop-out rates. Government statistics show that barely half ever finish high school. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the second most dangerous occupation in the United States. However, current US child labor laws allow child farmworkers to work longer hours, at younger ages, and under more hazardous conditions than other working youths. While children in other sectors must be 12 to be employed and cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, in agriculture children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours before and after school.” They would work two to three jobs depending on their age.

Ah yes, the good old days may return. Vote GOP!

Discussion

3 Responses to “Newt Gingrich and Child Labor”

  1. The fact he’s discussing this. EVEN DISCUSSING this… what kind of monsters are these freaking people? By “these freaking people” I mean republicans. I never realized the extent of their outlook on life until he made this comment. And he’s not the only one!

    Posted by Cory | December 4, 2011, 11:24 pm

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