Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.


A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Rather Than Pass Wage Increases, GOP Legislatures Move to Weaken Child Labor Laws

Lawmakers in Ohio and Wisconsin are pushing to allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work longer hours as exorbitantly wealthy corporations pay their adult employees less than $15 per hour on average.

Julia Conley

Months into the United States' so-called "labor shortage"—which progressives and economists have repeatedly said is actually the result of weak worker protections during the coronavirus pandemic and wages that have remained stagnant for decades—Republican lawmakers and pro-business groups across the country are leading an effort to enable companies to fill out their ranks by hiring young teenagers.
Most recently, the Republican-led Wisconsin state Senate passed S.B. 332, which would expand "the permissible work hours a minor under 16 years of age may work," allowing businesses to hire 14- and 15-year-olds to work starting at 6:00am and until as late as 9:30pm on weeknights or 11:00 p.m. on weekend evenings.
The bill, which would only apply to companies covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and that earn more than $500,000 annually, headed to the state Assembly on October 20, sparking outrage among child advocates, workers' rights groups, and Democratic lawmakers in the state.
"Kids should be doing their homework, being in school instead of working more hours," state Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Somers) told the Wisconsin Examiner. "So I oppose this bill. And I think it sends us in the wrong direction."

"Why are we calling this a labor shortage? I think it is a dignified job shortage."

The bill was supported by groups including the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, and the owners of a local ice cream store chain testified in favor of the measure, saying that allowing 14- and 15-year-old employees to leave work by 7:00pm as they're currently required to "puts a burden on the remaining teens we employ as they bear the brunt of the work."
Educator Brett Bigham pushed back against the proposal, saying, "Pay a living wage and you won't need to hire 15 year olds."
Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, testified against S.B. 332, saying the state's 14- and 15-year-old children "are owed the same level of protection that our state has provided over the past 100 years."
On social media in recent months, workers's rights advocates have posted photos of multinational corporations including McDonald's and Burger King advertising job openings for teenagers as young as 14—all while paying their adult employees an average of less than $15 per hour.
"This is so absurd," tweeted labor activist Joshua Potash of a McDonald's sign advertising an $8.50-per-hour wage for 14- and 15-year-old workers. The company brought in $4.7 billion in profits in 2020, with shareholders reaping $3.7 billion in dividends and CEO Chris Kempczinski taking home nearly $11 million.
Meanwhile, a 61-year-old longtime employee at a McDonald's location in Tampa, Florida described making $9.40 per hour without paid time off or sick days in the New York Times earlier this year.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took aim at the claims of a "labor shortage" on her Instagram account Monday evening.
"Why are we calling this a labor shortage?" Ocasio-Cortez said. "I think it is a dignified job shortage. This is what happens when we don't have healthcare. This is what happens when we don't have child care."
In Ohio, one Democratic state senator joined three Republicans last month in introducing S.B. 251, which would allow businesses to keep teenagers under the age of 16 at work until 9:00pm.
"The notion that we would be solving some economic turmoil by allowing the expansion of child labor hours, is at best, ridiculous, and at worst, very detrimental to young people," Debra Cronmiller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, told The Guardian on Tuesday regarding that state's proposal.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Horrific': 50 Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Trailer Truck in Texas

"We need to end Title 42 and fix our broken immigration system so these unimaginable tragedies stop happening," said Rep. Chuy García. "People fleeing violence and poverty deserve a chance at a better life."

Jake Johnson ·

Harris Says White House Not 'Discussing' Use of Federal Land for Abortion Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the Democratic lawmakers who have expressed support for the idea as GOP-controlled states move to outlaw abortion.

Jake Johnson ·

Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·

Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo