Give the kids a radial arm saw and a nail gun, it’ll be loads of fun!

Back to the good old days.

I was 13 when I got my first job. It was hard labor for the City of Kent Parks Department. I’d go out with the crew and we’d rake and shovel to remove rocks from new parks under development.

I lasted two weeks. I was shoveling rocks from piles up into a dump truck, hoisting heavy shovel loads above my head to clear the sides of the truck bed, when my left knee buckled and my kneecap was dislocated. There went that summer! I spent the entire season in a hip-to-ankle cast, and got $170 dollars in disability pay. My knee was permanently wrecked, unfortunately — it would dislocate in a grisly fashion in 10th grade, as well, and is permanently weakened. I can feel it even now, especially when I go up and down stairs.

$170 is a lot of money when you’re 13. It got spent on clothes for school in the Fall — I was outgrowing everything — and I don’t think it was worth it.

Well looky here. Businesses are feeling a labor shortage, so they’re looking around for muscled meat to do repetitive and dangerous labor, and who do they spy? Kids. Let’s put the kids to work!

Legislators in Iowa and Minnesota introduced bills in January to loosen child labor law regulations around age and workplace safety protections in some of the country’s most dangerous workplaces. Minnesota’s bill would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs. The Iowa measure would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work certain jobs in meatpacking plants.

The Iowa bill, introduced by state Sen. Jason Schultz (R), would permit children as young as 14 to work in industrial freezers and meat coolers, provided they are separate from where meat is prepared, and work in industrial laundry.

At 15, they would be able to work as lifeguards and swimming instructors, perform light assembly-line work after obtaining a waiver from state officials, and load and unload up to 50 pounds of products from vehicles and store shelves with a waiver “depending on the strength and ability of the fifteen-year-old.”

The Iowa proposal would also expand hours teenagers can work during the school year, and would shield businesses from civil liability if a youth worker is sickened, injured or killed on the job.

Even in the benighted 1970s we weren’t allowed to work construction or in meatpacking plants (although the bit about moving around 50 pound loads did trigger a twinge — repetitive heavy lifting can do a surprising amount of damage to growing bodies). Just think, I could have had my horizons broadened with hard labor pushing around dead pigs on meathooks! I was going to comment on the riches I might have received if I’d accidentally sawed off a limb, but the politicians are thinking ahead and protecting businesses from liability already.

Jesus fuck, but capitalism is evil.


  1. says

    That last paragraph is the particularly evil part. It’s as though nobody learns from history, but then, I’m stating the obvious

  2. Larry says

    If we can’t get the parents to work for us at shit wages and benefits, by god, we’ll have their children working for even less! ‘murica!

  3. says

    “Labor shortage” my ass. There’s no “labor shortage” at all, just a lot of spoiled plutocrats crying about the horrible crippling injustice of having to pay their workers a living wage and treat ’em like adults. Now they want to hire kids because they’re easier to push around and manipulate.

    I’m sure the libertarians are crowing about this bold new innovative idea for improving efficiency…

  4. euclide says

    @3 : oh, they learn from history, except they read it backward

    The 19th century was fine.
    No pesky health code, no regulation, no equal pay non-sense, no paid vacations, no healthcare insurance private or otherwise, no pension plans to pay for.
    And company towns, child labor…
    That was the ideal time for Ayn Rand and all libertarians (who all imagine themselves at the factory director, never as the working 10 years old)

    I had my first job at 17. It was a useless office job but, since all my friends were working that summer, I had nothing better to do anyway. Working during the summer at 16 or 17 is a useful life experience, especially if you end up having a high paying job, it gives you the point of view of the other less lucky ones.
    Since it was on my parent’s tax bracket, I’m not sure it was that profitable but spending my own money for a change was nice

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    Radial arm saws are becoming uncommon. Miter saws can handle most of the tasks for which they are used.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    An actual headline from the Des Moines Sunday Register, December 19, 1982:

    Falling-hog danger found at Sioux City

  7. says

    All these capitalists’ kids are lining up for those jobs, right? And they adults are leaving their golf carts and running to, uh, wait – they’re shitty jobs that nobody’d take unless they were desperate? Sounds like a “desperation gap” to me.

  8. moarscienceplz says

    To a Republican, Oliver Twist is an aspirational model. That is, to the ones that still read books.

  9. R. L. Foster says

    I had my first ‘real’ job at age 16 in a German factory (Deutsche Carbone, Kalbach) making automotive carbon brushes. This was in the 1960s when Germany had a severe labor shortage and brought in Italian and Turkish guest workers by the tens of thousands. I was a young, bilingual American and had no trouble being hired. In my case it was a summer job that paid very well, much better than being a supermarket bagger at the base commissary. I sat at a machine for 8 hours a day pressing a pedal with my right foot foot and moving the press/cutter assembly with my right hand. I performed the same repetitive motion thousands of time a day. Talk about tedious. But I got very good at it. My foreman told me my brushes were excellent quality. This was long before the Walkman or MP3 players so it was just me and my thoughts competing with the din of dozens of other nearby machines.

    I’m not by any means advocating for child labor. My job was not dangerous. I don’t support kids that young working in meat packing plants. But, the truth is, that job did me no harm. I earned a living wage and learned a valuable lesson : Adult work can be hard. When school started back up in September I happily quit, pocketing many thousands of Deutsche Marks, an unheard of amount for my classmates. I also learned that real money is almost like magic. Things that I once only dreamed about doing or owning became a reality.

  10. kenbakermn says

    Meanwhile there are tens of thousands of immigrants on our southern border. If only we had jobs for those people.

  11. Larry says

    The Rethuglicans that dreamt this up should be the first in line for the slaughterhouse and I don’t mean packing the meat.

    Hey, does this Soylent Green taste funny to you?

  12. brettvk says

    This goes hand-in-hand with the destruction of public education. After you’ve transferred public funds to the private Christian schools that can exclude the poor and POC students, you sequester them in starveling charter schools until they do something you can charge them with. Then you can expel them to the child labor market, or place them in a juvenile facility that just happens to have a labor contract with a local factory.

  13. says

    What, Newt Gingrich isn’t endorsing the idea? He was a big advocate of getting rid of school custodians and making students do all the cleaning!

  14. JM says

    In the past the Republican solution to this sort of problem has been to reduce enforcement of illegal alien laws, bring in some more workers from other countries and even let a few refugees settle in areas that need a lot of low skill labor. The radical right is so anti-immigration that must not be tolerable for the Republican party right now.

  15. moonslicer says

    “Is it likely to hurt someone?”
    “I’d say so, yeah.”
    “Let’s do it!”

    I got out of right-wing circles too early to really get this lesson down pat.

  16. Reginald Selkirk says

    17-year-old worker was pulled into woodchipper before he died, feds say. Company cited
    A tree service company allowed three minors to use a woodchipper — forbidden under federal child labor laws — before one of them was killed using the machine, according to federal authorities.

    The 17-year-old worker was feeding “entangled material” into the woodchipper on Aug. 9 at a work site in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, when he was “partially pulled” in, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a Feb. 13 news release. He later died of his injuries…

  17. wzrd1 says

    Well, once they push these laws through, the way is cleared to bring the 7 years and up crowd back into the mines.
    Then, moving forward to bring us back child soldiers.
    Welcome to the future, the 21st century implosion of civilization.
    I imagine that should this fail, they’ll switch to trying to start a thermonuclear war so that they can still win their feudal society desires.

  18. says

    Well, since I actually did work as a lifeguard and swimming instructor when I was 15 (fully certified by Red Cross training), I think that part of the proposed law is fine. But the rest is simply a return to the child labor abuses of the 19th century.

  19. says

    I worked as a detassler and walked beans when was 15 and 16. Detassling was just horrendous. Leaf cuts everywhere, pollen burn, soaked head to toe 10 seconds after walking into the field and wading through literal pig shit in a flooded field. I did it for half a day, then got a job walking beans. Sun on your face, got to wear headphones and really the only danger was the razor sharp hoe to cut the weeds and rogues. It was good money at that age, but completely voluntary cause I wanted spending money.

  20. magistramarla says

    One of my high school classmates began working for one of the local oil refineries straight out of high school.
    He must have been 18 or 19 when he fell into a vat of acid and died.
    This kind of job shouldn’t even be available to anyone under 21 in my opinion.

  21. magistramarla says

    All five of our kids, and later the oldest grandson, worked as lifeguards and swim instructors at 15.
    This was after competing on swim teams from the age of 5.Some of them even progressed to coaching the summer team.
    It was good character-building work, and earned them some spending money.
    There was another advantage. Since I was also a member at the pool, Mamma could go there and unobtrusively check up on the working conditions. When the neighborhood pool was sold to a private, for-profit entity, the manager they brought in from another state began making unreasonable demands upon the young employees, and the Moms and Grandmas were quickly aware.
    My daughter, along with several other parents, soon removed most of the lifeguards from the situation.
    What the rethugs don’t understand is that kids of that age still need to be parented. Don’t mess with the Moms and Grandmas!

  22. says

    This is just another example of areas in the USA sliding back into 3rd world status. Curious how it’s always the Republicans who are leading this, eh? And for those particularly poor and red states, we see things like this in Mississippi where there’s been a 900% rise in congenital syphilis cases among newborns over the past 5 years:

    These things don’t happen in technologically advanced democracies with an educated populace. I assume it will only get worse as the young people who are able to, and who are smart enough, will leave these places. All you’ll have left is the dregs of the cult and those poor individuals who cannot leave.

  23. says

    I mentioned to one of the people I work that I’ve been operating heavy machinery for 30+ years. I started when I was 12yo. She said “That doesn’t sound legal”. I said a lot of stuff happens in rural Eastern Oregon that is very not legal.

  24. chuckonpiggott says

    Let them at that radial arm saw. Quickest way to lose a thumb there is. Mine sits in the base,ent. Haven’t turned it on for at least 10 years. Can’t get rid of it because I have too much stuff piled on it.

  25. wzrd1 says

    BTW, a miter saw, table saw and either jigsaw or my preferred, bandsaw would be wonderful entertainment.
    Although, I’ve always preferred using a lathe first.
    Yeah, before I went fully into electronics and technology, I meddled in concrete, metalwork and wood.
    The most useful person I ever found held a hammer, the least useful, a gun. And that, based upon a lengthy military career.

    Now, given I’m in Pennsylvania, I feel drawn to a woodchipper… ;)

  26. A. Feesh says

    I’m just waiting for the Iowa meatpackers to be found with 12-year-old immigrant children working and then the CEOs cry about how they were hoodwinked by the 12-year-old Guatemalan, “He had fake papers so good we were tricked! We wouldn’t have knowingly hired him! Not our fault!”

  27. chuckonpiggott says

    #33 @wzrd1. Wood chippers are in Fargo.
    I love my hammers. Have all from 12 Oz to 28 Oz mail hammers. Lotsa fun driving nails.

  28. StevoR says

    @19. Raging Bee :

    What, Newt Gingrich isn’t endorsing the idea? He was a big advocate of getting rid of school custodians and making students do all the cleaning!

    Perhaps I just haven’t heard over here but seems Newt Gingrich has really faded away and done / said prettty much nothing of consquence lately – or indeed since Trump beat him to the Republican nomination really..