Report Offers Roadmap to Curbing Child Labor Violations

February 28, 2024

A new report from the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and not-for-profit Economic Policy Institute provides an array of state-level policy prescriptions to deter growing violations of child labor laws. “State lawmakers can have a tremendous impact on protecting children and stopping child labor violations,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and author of the report—published today (Feb. 27). Hosted by the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and EPI/EARN Network, and moderated by author and former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, the webinar will provide policymakers and advocates with concrete ideas for policies to deter child labor violations. About the Economic Policy Institute:The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. About NYU Wagner:The NYU Wagner Labor Initiative at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service explores, advocates for, and accelerates the often-untapped potential of government in safeguarding and advancing workers' rights.

A new report from the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and not-for-profit Economic Policy Institute provides an array of state-level policy prescriptions to deter growing violations of child labor laws.

“State lawmakers can have a tremendous impact on protecting children and stopping child labor violations,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and author of the report—published today (Feb. 27). “Policymakers should develop a package of measures that will increase the likelihood of detection, deter violations by creating genuinely meaningful consequences, and help support children who have been victims.”  

Amid a significant increase in child labor violations nationally based on federal and state data, the report—titled “Policies for states and localities to fight oppressive child labor”—recommends increasing funding for enforcement and increasing civil and criminal penalties for violations—two critical prescriptions often put forward by advocates.

The report also presents less-frequently highlighted avenues for preventing and addressing violations, all drawing on existing precedents within federal, state, or local employment laws—demonstrating their feasibility. Many are also low-cost or likely revenue neutral. These recommendations include: 

●      Blocking businesses with widespread or unremedied child labor violations (directly or in supply chains) from becoming government contractors;

●      Creating easier methods to hold lead corporations accountable, instead of allowing them to deflect responsibility to subcontractors and staffing agencies;

●      Creating damages or restitution for child labor victims, to provide redress for them and overcome obstacles to reporting violations;

●      Creating a whistleblower or private right of action for child labor violations, to increase detection of violations;

●      Changing workers’ compensation laws to allow damages lawsuits against employers when minors are injured or killed on the job while assigned to work that violates child labor laws;

●      Allowing enforcers to stop production or distribution of products made with illegal child labor, through stop work orders or state-level “hot goods” provisions;

●      Requiring public disclosure so that consumers are informed of company child labor violations;

●      Adding workers’ rights education to public high school curricula.

While the policy recommendations are targeted particularly toward legislators at the state level, many are relevant for federal and local officials as well.

A webinar in conjunction with the report will be held on Monday, March 4, at 3:00 p.m. (ET). Hosted by the NYU Wagner Labor Initiative and EPI/EARN Network, and moderated by author and former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, the webinar will provide policymakers and advocates with concrete ideas for policies to deter child labor violations. To attend, please register here.

Gerstein is available for interview through the NYU press officer listed with this news release.

About the Economic Policy Institute:

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security. To achieve this goal, EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America. EPI proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers.

About NYU Wagner:

The NYU Wagner Labor Initiative at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service explores, advocates for, and accelerates the often-untapped potential of government in safeguarding and advancing workers' rights. The Labor Initiative helps government work for workers, by serving as a hub of analysis, research, and implementation guidance, as well as idea generation and dissemination, related to the role of government in advancing and protecting workers’ rights.

The source of this news is from New York University

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