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The student news site of Lake Brantley High School

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Fighting unionization with child labor; brought to you by Linda Chaney

Rep.+Linda+Chaney%2C+representative+to+Florida+House+District+61%2C+speaks+during+the+2023+legislative+session.+Shortly+before+the+2024+session+she+filed+Senate+Bill+49.+
Photo provided by: Florida House of Reps.
Rep. Linda Chaney, representative to Florida House District 61, speaks during the 2023 legislative session. Shortly before the 2024 session she filed Senate Bill 49.

In September, Florida House Representative Linda Chaney filed a bill that, if passed, would completely remove child labor laws for sixteen to seventeen year olds. The bill, which as of mid-January is being read in the House, was deemed favorable with committee substitutions on Jan. 10, meaning it will likely pass through Florida’s bicameral system. 

While it would already be a gross decision to roll back child labor laws on a moral level, it also poses a massive threat to a group which Florida laws already target on a regular basis: labor unions. 

As a right-to-work state, Florida prohibits the mandating of unionization in company contracts, meaning that no job can require people to be in the union as a term of employment. While on paper, right-to-work laws are supposed to empower the worker, in practice they undermine unions making the protections typically offered by unionization nearly impossible to achieve because companies can simply hire non-unionized members. 

SB (Senate Bill) 49 would further undermine Florida unions in already weak sectors (such as theme parks and restaurants, two integral areas of Florida’s tourism industry) due to age barriers associated with unions. In order to be protected by a union, you must be a card-carrying member, meaning that you have signed your union contract and oftentimes pay a form of dues. However, as a minor your signature holds no legal weight and union contracts cannot be signed by proxy (by a parent/guardian), making it impossible for minors to be members of unions. Without the possibility of unionization and no restrictions on the amount of hours they can work, minors will inevitably be exploited by mega-corporations without consequences normally held up by unions. 

The roll back on child labor laws also poses a threat to strong unions such as the United Association and the Florida AFL-CIO because of the removal of restrictions on the type of environments minors can work in. Under current child labor laws, minors are not able to operate certain heavy machinery and other specific tools, prohibiting them from working in most blue-collar fields, which also happen to be the field with the strongest unions. 

Without these restrictions, we will begin to see a number of minors go into these hazardous working conditions without a real chance at unionization, which will inevitably lead to exploitation of the minors. With the introduction of un-unionized laborers, companies will be able to cut unionized workers in favor of cheaper, easily exploitable labor, making it much harder for unionized laborers to find work and ultimately undermining Florida’s already targeted union system.  

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About the Contributor
Madalyn Propst
Madalyn Propst, Multi-Media Editor
Madalyn Propst is a senior, and the multimedia editor for 2023-2024, she is heavily involved in the school's chorus, and the Florida Democratic Party. She plans on double majoring in political and computer science in the fall.
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