DES MOINES, IOWA — Union workers and parents in the dozens gathered in the rotunda at the Iowa statehouse on Monday to protest a bill.

The bill is in the Iowa House and the Senate and has passed out of each subcommittee earlier this month. The bill would reduce laws preventing child labor in the state.

“So we are here today to send a very simple message. We need to pay higher wages to their parents to the kids don’t have to work in factories or packing plants,” said one protestor.

The bill would allow 14-year-olds to work in industrial laundries and meat freezers during the school year for six hours. Those hours could be extended during the summer months. It would permit 15-year-olds to work on assembly lines unloading items up to 50 lbs, 16 and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol and allow employers to hire teens for work-based learning programs. The bill also contains language of reducing liability to employers if a child gets injured during that program.

“These are middle school kids cleaning big machinery, sharp machinery, and using harsh chemicals,” said Sandy Conway, a member of United Steel Workers 105. “They are sleeping through class. If they got paid a better wage their families wouldn’t depend on them as part of the family income.”

“Just how important child care is at prohibiting people from re-entering the workplace. This is not what we envisioned or the people of Iowa envisioned for a solution to the problem. Putting our children in that workplace is not what was on the table,” said Ryan Drew, IUOE Local 150.

The protestors ended the rally by chanting “our kids are not for sale” as they marched to the Senate President and Speaker of the House offices to give them demand letters.