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DOL seeks funding to investigate child labor violations

Julie Su(2).jpg
Photo: House Appropriations Committee

Washington — As several states move to roll back child labor law protections, acting Labor Secretary Julie Su has a message: Federal law still applies in every state.

“The federal law is a floor,” Su said during an April 17 House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2025 request for the Department of Labor. “We make sure the Department of Labor enforces that floor.”

The White House is seeking $7.5 million from Congress to support 50 full-time investigators for child labor violations. In response to questions from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Su said the department would direct much of its resources to states where DOL is the “last line of defense.”

“We are seeing unconscionable cases of child labor,” Su said to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member of the subcommittee. “We are seeing 13-year-olds working the night shift on the kill floor of meatpacking plants, working with toxic chemicals, doing cleaning. We see young people working as sawmill operators, doing roofing and doing work that is understandably illegal for children.

“We’re not talking about a child who is working at the corner store – learning how to show up on time and provide good customer service and the importance of responsibility and a paycheck. We’re really seeing terrible cases where children are being put in harm’s way.”

Overall, the Biden administration is requesting a little more than $655 million for OSHA – a roughly $23 million increase, or 3.7%. The White House is seeking a 4.8% budget increase, or nearly $19 million more than current funding level (around $387.8 million), for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. 

Its proposed budget for NIOSH, meanwhile, is unchanged at $363 million.

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