By Donna Ballman
Did you hear the one where the Republican contender for president said we ought to repeal child labor laws? Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but if you weren’t paying attention due to all the holiday parties, you might have missed Newt Gingrich’s comments on the subject. He said that child labor laws are “truly stupid.” He wants poor 10-year-olds to become school janitors.
As the mother of a 10-year-old, Mr. Gingrich’s comments have been weighing on me. I had to speak up. Talk like this might get some headlines and votes, but it’s shortsighted to even think about abolishing child labor laws.
Anyone who is thinking that this proposal is anything but idiotic needs a little history lesson:
In the beginning of the industrial age, factory owners figured out that the machines were so simple, even a child could operate them. Children were less likely to push for those pesky unions. So poor children were sent to work in factories with dangerous equipment. Children would work 12 to 18 hours a day, six days a week, to earn a dollar. Factories were creative in ways to keep the “young imps” inside, using barbed wire and locked fire exits. Children would do dangerous jobs like carrying hot glass, working in coal mines, hauling heavy loads, and working in textile mills. Read more