As the trial of the former C.E.O. of a Postville meatpacker gets underway in Waterloo involving 83 alleged child labor law violations, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says more government regulation of child labor likely isn’t the answer. Harkin, a Democrat, chairs the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“Whether or not our labor committee needs to do something remains to be seen,” Harkin says. “We’ve already been working with different agencies of government to beef up their inspection processes and procedures. We just weren’t getting enough inspections and enough oversight. That’s what this begs for. Whether or not it requires any new legislation, I’m not sure.”
The former Agriprocessors plant in Postville was the subject of a federal immigration raid in May of 2008 that netted nearly 400 arrests. As a way to fight illegal immigration, some Senate Democrats propose requiring all workers to carry a national identification card. Harkin is uncertain if he would support the idea.
“That might have some merit,” Harkin says. “I’d have to know more about how do you get the I-D card? What’s it based on? That type of thing. Does that mean, everyone in America now has to have an I.D. card?” Reports say a draft of the measure would require every worker in the nation to carry the card within six years. It would be embedded with a host of personal information, including fingerprints.
Harkin says it raises a red flag in his mind about civil liberties. “If it was used for employment verification, that’s one thing,” Harkin says, “but if it’s some kind of a national I.D. card where every single person in America has to carry an I.D. card, well, that’s something else again, isn’t it?”