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.