Stop Corporate Child Abuse

Image Source: National Child Labor Committee Materials – CC BY-SA 2.0

With new outrages erupting every day, I find some comfort in knowing that we the people have at least eliminated certain particularly ugly plutocratic abuses. Child labor, for example — outlawed in 1938, right?

Well, outlawed, yes; stopped, no. Recent reports reveal that thousands of children, ages 12 to 17, are toiling illegally at dangerous jobs, in manufacturing, construction, food processing, etc.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with teenagers working to help their families, gain experience, or just earn a few bucks. Indeed, I worked part-time throughout my high school and college years, and while I did gripe some, overall it was positive.

So, the problem isn’t about children working — it’s about corporate child abuse, plain and simple.

For example, last year Packers Sanitation Services was caught “employing oppressive child labor” in meatpacking plants to clean saws, head splitters, and other butchering machines. In a typical incident, one 13-year-old was badly burned by the caustic cleaning chemicals they used during long night shifts — which ran from 11 p.m. to at least 5 a.m.!

Once caught, top executives of Packers Sanitation tried to sanitize their reputation by proclaiming they have “zero tolerance for any violation” of child labor laws. Oh? Ask that 13-year-old.

These executives would be comical, except they’re completely disgusting and morally repugnant. Yet our worker protection laws are so weak that Packers’ multiple violations, involving 102 children in this one case, resulted in a fine of just $1.5 million.

That’s not even peanuts for this nationwide giant owned by Blackstone, a trillion-dollar Wall Street huckster run by well-manicured executives who pretend they know nothing about the children they endanger for profit.

How about we make a few of the teenage children and grandchildren of Blackstone profiteers work some midnight shifts cleaning meat cutting machinery? I’m guessing they would stop the abuse overnight.

James Hightower is an American syndicated columnist, progressive political activist, and author.