Pushback from Florida Democrats keeps teens from working longer hours

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By Giselle Balido

March 8, 2024

The original bill eliminated all limits on 16 and 17-year-olds working in the early morning or late at night, including school days. A majority of Floridians–72% percent–strongly opposed the proposal.

On the second-to-last day of Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session, the state Senate amended and passed a Republican-backed bill that originally would have eliminated curfew restrictions for some teens and allowed them to work longer hours or on construction jobs.

The new Senate-approved bill allows businesses to work minors older than 16-years-old more than 30 hours a week if they obtain parental permission through a state-sanctioned form, a significant departure from the bill that was originally filed in September.

The original version of House Bill 49 originally eliminated all limits on 16- and 17-year-olds working in the early morning or late at night and would have allowed minors 16 and older to work full-time without parental input. It also removed requirements for work breaks and would have allowed children to work past midnight on school nights.

A majority of Floridians–72% percent–strongly opposed the original bill, according to a survey commissioned by the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI). 

But after pushback from Democrats, the proposal was amended to keep rules limiting teens that age from working later than 11 p.m. or earlier than 6 a.m. on a day before school, similar to current law.

The version of the bill that cleared the Senate Rules committee in late February:
  • No longer allows 16-and 17-year-olds to work more than 30 hours a week without parental permission.
  • Requires 30-minute break every four hours, if the minor has a shift longer than eight hours.
  • Says 16-and 17-year-olds cannot work more than eight hours if they have school the next day.

 

RELATED: 72% of Florida voters oppose bill loosening child labor protections

Republicans who supported the original bill argued that it would help impoverished families who need the income, provoking a strong backlash from state Democrats.

“Let’s wage war on poverty, not poor people,” said Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami Democrat who opposed the controversial measure.

Florida Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat who represents Miami-Dade, suggested that the reason behind the proposal was a growing need for labor as Republican policies targeting undocumented migrants have created a labor shortage in the Sunshine State that has mostly impacted the hospitality, agricultural, and construction industries. 

RELATED: Meet the Immigrant Communities Who Make Florida Unique

Before sending it to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk, the Senate combined HB 49 with another controversial bill–House Bill 433–which prevents local governments from requiring companies to provide shade and water breaks to outdoor workers. 

The original heat exposure preemption bill included a provision that preempted cities and counties from requiring contractors and subcontractors to pay higher wages, which the Senate excised.

Now the House must decide whether to pass the amended version of the bill or send it back to the Senate, potentially killing both measures.

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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