Supporters of child labor resolution say it could make Nebraska ‘new champion’

By: - March 3, 2023 5:02 pm
Carol Blood explains a resolution to the Executive Board

State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue wants the state to seek its share of federal energy conservation funds. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Supporters of a U.S. constitutional amendment related to child labor said Friday it could make Nebraska a “new champion” in the anti-child labor movement.

Legislative Resolution 5, proposed by State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would have Nebraska ratify the Child Labor Amendment of 1924. This would amend the Constitution and specify that Congress can regulate or prohibit the labor of persons younger than 18.

If passed, Nebraska would be the 29th state to ratify the amendment, and the first state since 1937 to do so. It requires 38 states to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The State of Nebraska has taken no position on the amendment in the past.

“We are only ratifying what is already in law in support of Nebraska children and making a statement that we missed an opportunity to do better,” Blood said. 

‘Chart a better path forward’

Blood said the amendment would not change the regulation of child labor, since laws are already in place such as the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Still, she and proponents said it would send a strong message to the rest of the nation.

“Passing this LR does give Nebraska a unique opportunity to chart a better path forward for the rest of the country,” said Garret Swanson on behalf of the Holland Children’s Movement.

Swanson said it is “long past time” to support the amendment and said it could establish consistent standards nationwide, helping to better protect children and meet international obligations.

Anahí Salazar with Voices for Children in Nebraska said the resolution could make Nebraska the “new champion” of the modern anti-child labor movement, allowing children to learn and thrive in their jobs.

Recent violations in Nebraska

Children as young as 13 have been found to be working in dangerous conditions in a handful of states. 

The U.S. Department of Labor announced in February that after an investigation into Packers Sanitation Services Inc. at 13 plants in eight states, including Nebraska, Packers had paid $1.5 million in civil penalties for making children as young as 13 work in dangerous conditions.

This included overnight shifts cleaning “kill floor” equipment such as head splitters and back or brisket saws, exposing children to ammonia, feces and blood. 

The investigation also found that children were working at plants in Grand Island, Gibbon and Omaha. Packers was fined $408,726 for employing 27 minors at the JBS Foods plant based in Grand Island.

Nick Grandgenett, staff attorney with Nebraska Appleseed, said Nebraska has a large amount of these violations, which could bring lifelong injuries to Nebraska children.

“I gotta be honest, LR 5 is not going to stop these illegal and brutal practices,” Blood told the Executive Board on Friday. “But it offers a statement that Nebraska should abide by what is increasingly becoming a larger issue every year.”

For the children

Nebraska Cattlemen previously submitted a letter in opposition to LR 5, Blood said. 

However, after talking with the group and noting the resolution would not change Nebraska regulations, she said, they asked for the board to remove their letter of opposition from the official record.

Blood, who ran against Gov. Jim Pillen in 2022, said the governor and other state senators often emphasize support for Nebraska children.

“Here’s an opportunity for us to really show that it’s truly about the children of Nebraska and that we have the expectation that we will always do better when it comes to protecting them,” Blood said.

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.