DES MOINES, Iowa — The annual Labor Day Parade marched it’s way down Grand Avenue in Des Moines on Monday.
This holiday, union members and lawmakers are calling for changes to Iowa’s child labor laws; after a bill passed by Iowa Republicans last session lifted a lot of restrictions.
The U.S. Department of Labor sent a letter back to Iowa Democrats late last week about the new changes that violate federal law. Democrats sent the letter back in March, requesting the federal government to look at those changes to see if any federal policy is broken.
“The first thing and probably the most important thing is federal law is there to protect children from dangerous workplaces,” said Iowa State Senator Nate Boulton, (D), District 20, from Des Moines. “And so these aren’t, we’re not talking about kids shouldn’t be able to have work experience or learning experience. We’re just saying it has to be done the right way, in a safe way.”
The Department of Labor listed two issues with Iowa’s new changes: Allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to operate heavy machinery and allowing 16 and 17-year-olds not having to register with a state or federal agency when they work in an apprenticeship.
“Labor Day is a day where it’s about celebrating the American worker, but it’s not just about that,” said Charlie Wishman, the president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, who walked along the parade route. “You know, we need to make sure that the policy is fair and the people we’re voting for are actually going to help workers and not just help workers, but help their families succeed.”
Boulton said that he requested the federal government create a fact sheet on what aspects of the new state law violate federal.
The Dept. of Labor sent a request to the Iowa Commissioner of Labor that the language on the Iowa Department of Inspection, Appeals and Licensing should include specific language on their website. So that it is clear and explains to employers that only comply with Iowa’s less restrictive law, are still subjects of federal policy.
“I’m hopeful we can work together on some collaborative fixes on this and actually start from a good place of trying to find ways to keep kids safe in these occupations if there are things we can allow,” said Boulton.
Iowa Republicans have maintained their position that the bill drops restrictions to give young adults the opportunity to add workforce experience. With the Iowa House, Senate and Governor’s Office all republican-controlled, it remains unlikely that a change to implement these restrictions will happen.