Two months back, Senator Mike Lee of Utah posted a video to his youtube page in which he can be seen running down child labor laws. After the events in Wisconsin and the growth in assaults against working people around the country, it is time to revisit that video.
Lee’s people posted this video themselves, which is understandable if you think that the U.N. a greater danger to children today than factory work…or homophobic bullying.
Certainly a few harsh daddies will be attracted to the argument. Many more people will be revolted.
What the Hell is going on here? Lee’s speech will appear nonsensical to most. You have to accept that the treatment of children “is supposed to be harsh” as he says, in order to really follow his argument.
To put a…well…positive spin on the case for child labor, you have to believe that parents can essentially do what they like with their kids. And that the states can do what they like with their workers.
Lee is a noted proponent of what he calls a theocratic re-interpretation of United States law. This means, in practice as advocated by Lee, a position of absolute authority for the father in the family, and an absolute control for “Godly” authorities in public life.
So Lee is not just advocating a overly rigid argument for childrearing, but an alteration in labor law that will impact all workers and all parents. Such is their hatred of unions, one has to wonder if Lee, Miller and DeMint did not come to their conclusions on child labor while looking for another way to undermine collective bargaining.
Child labor laws were passed with the support of trade unions, who wanted to protect the children of workers from exploitation. In the mills of South Carolina and the coal mines of Appalachia, low wages and tractability put children in direct competition with their parents. By restricting the workforce to adults, labor was made more scarce and factory owners were forced to raise wages. Workers were able to support their families while their kids went to school.
It wasn’t so long ago that DeMint’s predecessor Ben Tillman was railing against mandatory childhood education.
Jim DeMint, is of course, at the center of this movement to unleash capitalism on children. In the last congress, DeMint created a photo-op for a “Parental Rights Amendment“. Only the hard-core right noticed at the time. With a few more allies like Lee in the Senate, DeMint will find it easier to get his views out.
Via Raw Story:
“Congress decided it wanted to prohibit that practice, so it passed a law. No more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that law, and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt,” Lee said. “In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.”
Lee’s reasoning was that labor and manufacturing are “by their very nature, local activities” and not “interstate commercial transactions.” He added: “This may sound harsh, but it was designed to be that way. It was designed to be a little bit harsh.”
The key Congressional law that addresses child labor is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which placed a series of restrictions against the employment of people under 18 in the public and private sectors.
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law in the 1941 United States v. Darby Lumber decision, overturning Hammer, on the basis of the constitutional authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. It has hardly run into controversies since.
Jim DeMint is on record as stating that public sector workers should not be permitted to associate in unions. He finds himself in agreement with South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley, who promised that her appointee to head the SC Department of Labor would “fight those unions”. And just today Rep. Mike Scott from the first Congressional District submitted a bill that would strip entire families of foodstamps if one member went on strike. All three oppose the extension of the rights of children. All three would stand with Lee in opposition to child labor laws.
Authoritarianism in the family, authoritarianism in the workplace. As Senator Lee says, it is supposed to be harsh.
In short, eliminating this:
'A little spinner in Globe Cotton Mill. Augusta, Ga. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed. Location: Augusta, Georgia.'
…helped lay the groundwork for this…
…can’t have this.
Protest march Anti-budget bill protesters marching at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. February 26, 2011