Consumer-labor group calls bizarre Missouri Senate bill to reduce child labor protections something ‘out of Charles Dickens novel’

For release: February 24, 2011

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the organization which helped pass federal child labor laws in the United States more than 70 years ago, is calling a Missouri bill to bring back child labor “straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.” The 112-year-old NCL is condemning a bill introduced in the Missouri state Senate by Republican Jane Cunningham that would eliminate the prohibition on employment of children under age 14.

“Labor crusader Florence Kelley would be rolling over in her grave,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “This is a new low,” said Greenberg. “Those who are attacking labor and worker protections are now apparently willing to put children back into factories or coal mines.”

Florence Kelley led NCL as the organization’s first Executive Secretary from its founding in 1899 to her death in 1932 and helped draft and enact many of the child labor laws in the United States. The National Consumers League currently co-chairs the 26-member Child Labor Coalition (, which works to maintain and improve standards and protections for children working both in the United States and abroad.

The Missouri legislation, SB 222:

  • removes the restrictions on the maxium number of hours and time of day during which a child may work;
  • repeals the requirement that a child ages 14 or 15 obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed;
  • allows children under 16 to work in any capacity in a motel, resort, or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished; and,
  • removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.

“The last provision would make it extremely difficult for state labor inspectors to detect child labor in the workplace,” said Reid Maki, coordinator of the CLC and NCL’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards. “Senator Cunningham is portraying these changes as common sense and innocuous amendments to current law, but they are really a full-frontal assault on child labor protections. Cunningham believes that allowing children to work late into the night makes sense, but late-night hours would expose teens to a greater risk of robbery and assault as well as make it more difficult for the young workers to perform well in school the next morning.”

“Americans support the bedrock principle that children should be in school and not in the workplace,” noted Greenberg, who serves as co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition. “NCL and other organizations fought for decades to achieve the protections we have today for young workers. We cannot and should not roll back the clock.”

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit