Child Labor And Wage Theft: Labor In Iowa

Iowa has been the center of negative national attention this legislative session for many egregious act, not the least of which is changing child labor laws to put kids to work earlier, in more dangerous situations and for longer hours.


Why you may ask. Despite denials from Republicans there seems to be one over riding reason: Iowa is short workers. Rather than pay the wages and offer the benefits that would draw people to the state to do the needed work, Republicans create very snaky ways to avoid more conventional solutions.

Remember last year when there was a shortage of child care providers? Rather than recommend wage raises and better working conditions the Iowa legislature’s response was to expand the work one care worker was allowed to do, despite safety concerns. Thus something that was unsafe on Tuesday became safe on Wednesday to save on wages.

The same flim-flam just took place in this legislative session. What was unsafe and very bad for kids on Tuesday suddenly became a great idea on Wednesday when Iowa corporations suddenly saw a way to save a buck or two. 

Watching the grinding of this last legislative sessions has certainly affirmed the number one rule of politics, especially politics that involve Republicans. That rule is: Follow the Money! 

As we see in the video, money wanted kids to work to save a few bucks. Money’s wish in Iowa is the legislator’s demand. Suddenly, voila! Kids will become yet another tool in the corporate bag to hammer down wages and benefits.

I suspect that Iowa’s standing as a destination state for workers and leaders which is low anyway, went down several notches, but he corporations will be saving bucks. 

I am not keeping score, but I do note that in the Iowa legislature’s war on kids, the kids are getting clobbered. Their public schools will be dismantled as money for the public schools will be siphoned off to private, often religious, schools. Now they are yet another commodity in the labor pool. Starting to feel like the turn of the century in Iowa. Yep, it’s feeling like 1900.

Thinking about the legislature’s extremely cynical move to turn children into a labor commodity to lower wages for workers made me wonder what happened to the issue of wage theft in Iowa. Reports circulated late last year of wage theft that was around the $1 billion mark in. Iowa.

If you are not sure what wage theft is think of situations where your boss asks you to do some task off the clock. In my working days I was often asked to do things like have a piece of equipment ready to go right at the shift’s start. This would mean ten to fifteen minutes of prep work. The boss was asking that I do this prep work on my own time. That is wage theft.

In looking doing some research I was unable to find much recent. However, I was able to find this interesting lead in to a story on wage theft in Iowa over at Common Good Iowa from six months ago in a story titled “A Theft In Plain Sight:      

No matter our color, zip code or the field we work in, all Iowans deserve to be paid for our work. This is a foundational right of Iowa workers, but as a state we are failing to maintain it.

Wage theft is an insidious and growing problem in Iowa. Each year, employers rob workers of over $900 million in legally owed but unpaid wages, harming an estimated 250,000 Iowa workers — 1 in every 7 workers in our state. They are shorted an average of $300 each week. Altogether, wage theft costs Iowans 10 times more than all other theft combined. (My bolding and italics in this paragraph ed.)

In a state with abundant resources and welcoming communities like Iowa, all families should be able to support themselves and build strong futures for their children. By allowing wage theft to continue unchecked, state leaders enable deep and lasting harm to workers, families, responsible employers and our economy. Local, state and federal governments lose $190 million annually in tax revenue due to wage theft. The state of Iowa alone loses about $60 million in sales, excise and income tax revenue — enough to build up to six elementary schools or to expand child care assistance to 10,000 children. Upstanding employers must compete with businesses that use these illegal practices.

Iowans want a government that protects them from crime and injustices. But of the $900 million stolen by employers each year, government agencies recover an average of just $2 million — less than 1 percent. Although law enforcement officers are found in every Iowa county and town, the state employs only two wage-claim investigators for over a million workers.

Much like a trained monkey the Iowa legislature danced when money played a tune.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
This entry was posted in Children, Iowa legislature 2023 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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