72% of Florida voters oppose bill loosening child labor protections

Image via Getty/Jeff Greenberg

By Giselle Balido

January 8, 2024

The proposals come at a time when, according to the US Department of Labor, Florida child-labor violations rose to 281, up from 178 in 2021. This represents a 57.9% increase.

Two Republican-backed bills proposed for the 2024 Florida legislative session would eliminate curfew restrictions for some teens and allow them to work longer hours or on construction jobs that many deem dangerous.

And a majority of Floridians strongly oppose the ideas.

Specifically, House Bill 49 would:

  • Remove current curfew constraints on 16- and 17-year-olds, letting them work before 6:30 a.m. and after 11 p.m.
  • Allow them to work more than 30 hours a week, plus on days before class.
  • Let Florida’s mandatory 30-minute breaks following four hours of continuous work remain only for those 15 and younger. City and county governments would be preempted in many cases from circumventing the standards.

A whopping 72% percent of Florida voters say they oppose the measure, according to a survey commissioned by the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI), with 19% supporting the change while 9% remain undecided. The poll has a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error.

RELATED: Proposed rollback of child labor law criticized as possible child exploitation

The second bill, Senate Bill 460, would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work on construction sites, roofs and scaffolding if they receive an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification and are supervised while on the job.

A Republican-caused crisis

While Republicans who support the bill argued that impoverished families need the income, Florida Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat who represents Miami-Dade, suggested that Republican policies against undocumented migrants have caused the state’s labor shortage that have mostly impacted the hospitality, agricultural, and construction industries.

The proposals come at a time when, according to the US Department of Labor, Florida child-labor violations rose to 281 in 2022, up from 178 in 2021. This represents a 57.9% increase.

Bills are strongly condemned

State Democrats’ efforts to amend the bills failed due to a lack of votes. But during a debate, they warned that the consequences of approving the proposed legislation would hurt kids more than help.

“We just recently passed a law having the school day start later because teenagers need more sleep,” Rep. Joe Casello, D-Boynton Beach, said. “I don’t see how this bill helps that.”

The proposed measures were also strongly condemned by the FPI, which expressed concern that “legislators are considering a bill that would undo crucial provisions of Florida’s child labor laws.” The organization also called for the Legislature to protect children from workplace exploitation.

RELATED: Meet the Immigrant Communities Who Make Florida Unique

“Florida voters want the best for kids in this state and are not willing to sacrifice the well-being of children so employers can fill open positions with cheap labor,” said FPI CEO Sadaf Knight. “Our state lawmakers should be focused on improving the health and safety of Florida youth, not removing crucial labor law protections.”

Florida isn’t alone in trying to ease work restrictions for minors. Last year, at least 14 states—including Georgia, Minnesota, and Ohio—saw legislation to allow teens to work more hours, more dangerous jobs or both, according to a report published on Florida Politics.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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