Governor Culver today signed a bill into law which dramatically increases the fines for Iowa businesses that knowingly violate child labor laws.
State Labor Commissioner Dave Neil says Iowa’s child labor laws haven’t been updated since 1974. "This is one big improvement in the tools that we’ll have to move forward," Neil says.
Legislators drafted the bill in response to the situation at Agriprocessors, the Postville meatpacking plant accused of dozens of child labor violations.
The new law establishes a $10,000 state fine for each child labor violation. The corresponding federal fine is $11,000. The legislation also hikes the penalty for businesses who fail to pay employees their rightfully-earned wages to $500. It had been a $100 fine. Supporters say the law also gives county attorneys more power to prosecutive businesses that engage in child labor violations.
The new law does not provide money to beef up state investigations of child labor law violations, however. "We don’t have any investigators, per se. We’ve got one child labor person who acts on all the permits and all of that," Neil says. We can’t today actively investigate everything we want to but, you know, we make phone calls and try and make sure people are aware of the law and those that ignore us we’ll be able to now move forward with."
Neil doesn’t believe that many Iowa businesses are ignoring the laws which forbid kids from workplaces and restricts the hours teenagers may work.
"It’s something that takes place in given circumstances and, thank God, with no real investigators to go out there, the public is really good about letting us know where some of these situations exist," Neil says.
Click on the audio link below to hear what Governor Culver had to say about this subject.