The Iowa Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill which would double the state fines on businesses caught illegally employing children. Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the bill is a response to what happened at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville.
"Failing to enforce wage laws and follow minimum standards cheats legal workers, drives down wages and is unfair to Iowa businesses that play by the rules," Dearden says.
Agriprocessors was cited for 57 child labor violations as well as other labor law violations, like charging workers for the use of equipment. "Postville is just one example of why we need to make these changes," Dearden says.
Last May over 300 workers at the Agriprocessors plant were rounded up in a federal raid and charged with immigration violations and identity theft, but a separate investigation found children were illegally employed in the plant, too. If the bill that passed the senate last night had been law, the fine for those child labor violations would have been $50 million.
The bill cleared the Iowa House last week on a 97 to zero vote. The Senate passed it tonight on a 48-to-zero vote and the bill now goes to Governor Culver, who is expected to sign it into law.