Iowa citizens met to protest against the SF 167 bill

Weakening Iowa child labor laws sparked a community protest in Iowa City.


Defne Bayman

Iowa parents come together to protest child labor bill SF 167.

Defne Bayman, Artist, Designer, Photographer

On Saturday, March 25, a group of protestors met in downtown Iowa City to advocate against Iowa’s newest child labor law SF 167, previously known as SF 542 and HF 647, which is currently being pushed through the Iowa Legislature. The group met at the pedestrian mall at approximately 12 p.m. where multiple protestors took turns coming forward and giving their reasons for rallying against the child labor laws. 

The protest was led by Jennifer Sherer, the President of the Iowa City Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), who spoke to the crowd of over 50 about what the bill would entail if passed through the Iowa legislature, and the ways it would change the long-standing laws protecting children in the workforce. 

Changes would include allowing children as young as 14 to work six-hour shifts on school nights and longer hours during summer months and to work in hazardous settings like meatpacking plants and industrial laundries. Children as young as 15 could work on assembly production lines, and children as young as 16 would be allowed to sell alcohol. 

“We should be very clear, we are not talking about kids babysitting, getting a summer job, working at the mall or grocery store for a few hours after school, all of which are completely and perfectly legal under current laws.” Sherer explained about the bill. “We are talking about teenagers being coerced or forced to work long and late hours year round, in often dangerous occupations, potentially endangering their health, their safety and their future.”

Sherer went on to give more information about the dangers of allowing young children to work in dangerous jobs or long hours, which the bill would allow if passed. “We know, for example, that teenage workers are injured when they are on the job at significantly higher rates than adults employed in the same job. We also know that working more than 15 hours a week during high school puts kids in a risk category for potentially failing to graduate or to make it to college.”

Other speakers at the event ranged from average members of the workforce to legislators and leaders of organizations, such as Chuck Hauck from Faith United Church of Christ. Hauck read off his letter to Iowa senators and lawmakers, where he said, “I agree that childhood is for learning, not earning…We must constantly guard against any temptation to allow our children and youth to work in occupations in particular job sites where they are not safe.” 

At approximately 1 p.m., Sherer rallied the group for some closing reminders. She urged all lawmakers to oppose SF 167, and told listeners, “When it comes to child labor laws, given the rise in violations across the country over the last decade, we should absolutely, if anything, be strengthening the enormous loopholes that still exist in our laws, not weakening protections against exploitation,” concluded Sherer.