Child Labor in Washington

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Child Labor in Washington

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:20 am UTC

Link

Spoiler:
By AVNI PATEL
Aug. 11, 2011

Nearly two years after ABC News cameras uncovered young children toiling away in Michigan's blueberry fields, federal investigators have found yet another disturbing example of illegal use of child labor in the berry industry.

Three southwest Washington strawberry growers were fined $73,000 last week after the U.S. Department of Labor found children between the ages of six and 11 working in their strawberries fields in June.

While an exemption in the federal child labor law allows 12- and 13-year-olds to work for unlimited hours on large agricultural operations, children under the age of 12 are strictly prohibited from working under similar conditions.

Andrea Schmitt, an attorney with Columbia Legal Services in Olympia, said that the low wages made by workers in the Northwest berry industry are a key factor driving young kids into the fields. She said that berry pickers, who are usually paid a piece rate instead of an hourly wage, often struggle to make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

"Minimum wage laws are not being followed with the adults who are working in this industry. Across the board, we see people making $5 or fewer an hour," said Andrea Schmitt, who provides legal services to low-income families working in berry picking. "People can't make minimum wage by the piece and so if they have another set of little hands adding to the pile of berries, they might be able to make enough to live on."
PHOTO: A young girl is shown in a strawberry field in this file photo.
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A young girl is shown in a strawberry field... View Full Size
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READ: ABC News Investigation: The Blueberry Children

Two of the southwest Washington state growers cited with fines – George Hoffman Farms and Berry Good Farms – were found to be in violation of minimum wages laws. The two growers, along with Columbia Fruit LLC, have taken steps to remove the underage workers from their fields and will be required to attend training conducted by the federal government over the next three years, according to a Department of Labor statement.

Representatives for Columbia Fruit LLC and Berry Good Farms did not respond to requests for comment. George Hoffman declined to comment, referring ABC News to his attorney who was unavailable.

To force the companies into compliance, the Department of Labor invoked an infrequently-used enforcement tool called the "hot goods" provision which prevents farmers from shipping produce harvested in violation with child labor laws.

"Agricultural employers must understand that the Labor Department will vigorously enforce the federal labor laws, especially when it comes to protecting vulnerable workers such as children," said Jeffrey Genkos, director of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour division office in Portland, Oregon, in a statement. "Agricultural employment is particularly dangerous for children, and the rules for their employment must be followed."

Schmitt said that harvesting low-growing strawberry plants can be arduous work for children.

"The kind of work that kids are doing on commercial farms, I think, is fundamentally different than the kind of berry-picking people did as kids 50 years ago," said Schmitt. "We're talking about kids who are picking 100 to 200 pounds of berries a day. In strawberries, that's a lot of stooping and standing. They complain to us about backaches -- their backs hurt when they sleep at night -- and we see these horribly bruised knees."

Page 2 of 2
Aug. 11, 2011

Sporadic Enforcement?

The violations in Washington were found two years after a 2009 ABC News investigation discovered children, some as young as five and seven, illegally working in the Michigan blueberry fields of a major supplier to Walmart and other chain grocery stores. Walmart suspended ties with the supplier pending an investigation and later reinstated the company after it took steps to assure Walmart that underage children would no longer be working in its fields.

Following the ABC News investigation, the Department of Labor announced a broad enforcement campaign against farmers employing children illegally, including increased fines for violators. The Department also moved to hire and train 250 new field inspectors, and said it would shift its strategy to promote compliance with more investigations conducted on weekends and evenings when children were most likely to be working in the fields.

The $8,117-per-child penalties assessed in the recent Washington cases appear to be a significant increase from the $1,100-per-child average fine charged to blueberry growers in Michigan, Arkansas and New Jersey found to be illegal employing underage children in the summer of 2009.

Still, some labor advocates say that the publicly touted changes made by the Department of Labor have yet to yield any significant increase in enforcement activity.
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In a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis sent last Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over a "disturbing overall decline in enforcement of child labor law" at the Department's Wage and Hour Division. The non-profit group, which documented the use of child labor in farm work in a report released last year, cited 2010 Labor enforcement data showing that the Department's agricultural inspections dropped by 9 percent from 1,379 in 2009 to 1,259 in 2010. The data also show that child labor violations in agriculture decreased from 36 cases involving 109 children to 31 cases involving 49 children during the same one-year period. Human Right Watch also found that the "hot goods" provision employed in the Washington was only used in one case per year.

The Department said that the number of enforcement hours in agriculture have actually increased during the last year by eight percent.

"The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) remains committed to protecting the health and well-being of children in agricultural workplaces. However, the WHD is not just focused on conducting more investigations, but in balancing a number of strategies to promote compliance with the agricultural labor standards for which it has enforcement responsibility," said a department spokesperson. "These strategies include added enforcement tools and resources, new regulations and increased public awareness such as news releases about violations uncovered in farming operations. It has and will continue to increase investigations and outreach to farmers, farm labor contractors, workers, parents, teacher, and others who provide services to farm workers and other federal agencies."

Back in Washington state, Schmitt says that she has seen little evidence of a broad enforcement campaign by the Department of Labor in her area.

"It's always been my hope the Department of Labor would pay attention to this region," said Schmitt. "I'm hopeful that this is not a one-time thing."


I'm not sure what to make of this. Yes, the corporations involved in this should face fines for violating labor laws (IMHO, the fines they got aren't enough). The issue I have is, what will actually happen to these children and their families now that they lose this extra income, however meager it may be?

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Gears » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:43 am UTC

Maybe it's because I'm from a rural area, but I don't really see what's wrong here. I worked on agricultural operations when I was young and nothing bad happened to me. It's kind of expected of you when you live in a rural area. Shit I roofed houses when I was 10.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Gellert1984 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:35 am UTC

What this article says to me has little to do with child labour laws.

The companies employ people and (essentially) pay them based on their yield-per-hour, but they set the yield so high that the employee's rarely make minimum wage, so the workers bring their kids to work to bump up their income. I'm guessing the companies employ the poorest of the poor who can't afford childcare so this works out for both the employer and the employee. Other than the screwing employees out of minimum wage part I see no problem with this (Edit- So long as it doesnt stop the kids going to school).

What I do have a problem with is that the employer doesnt seem to be supplying appropriate protective training/equipment (bruised knee's and bad backs).
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Gears » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:42 am UTC

"Bruised knees and bad backs" is what comes with being an agricultural worker. Kids aren't going to be missing school because the harvest isn't during school. I think it's good for kids to learn the meaning of hard work and how to save money.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zamfir » Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:00 am UTC

No better way to teach your kids about the meaning of hard work and saving.

"Look son, if you work hard and save a lot, you too might one day have a job that pays so little that you need to bring your kids to work to make up the difference. If little Cathy from the neighbours and you start breeding at 15, you can have lots of kids to help you when you are my age. "

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby ElCarl » Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:02 am UTC

The problem is that it isn't them saving money, it's that they are having to work so that their family can earn one minimum wage...

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Gears » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:38 am UTC

This happens on every family farm in America. Oh the horror. :roll:
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zamfir » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:17 pm UTC

I am not much of a fan of romanticizing rural poverty. These people aren't building up their family farm by hard work and saving. Piecework strawberry picking is just the rural equivalent of the nastier kinds of assembly line work. It's what you do when you're very poor and don't have other options.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zauderer » Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:54 pm UTC

Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Arrian » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:20 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?


Yep. What's the problem with children working when the work doesn't interfere with them going to school and is safe? Can a six year old even tell the difference between picking cherries and playing?

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:33 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:
Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?


Yep. What's the problem with children working when the work doesn't interfere with them going to school and is safe? Can a six year old even tell the difference between picking cherries and playing?


...

That's a great big "Yeeeeeeah." C'mon, you're crediting six year olds the cognitive capacity of goldfish. Or do you believe that at that age all activities are equally fungible? In that case, I'd be fascinated to hear why my little brother prefers going to the waterpark and playing on the computer rather than picking up sticks for kindling and putting away laundry.

Of course they can tell the difference.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zamfir » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:42 pm UTC

Arrian wrote: Can a six year old even tell the difference between picking cherries and playing?

At the level where their effort starts to count in dollars? Oh yes.

When I was a little kid, I used to help on my grandfather's farm, including picking strawberries. Lots of fun, if you can just work at the speed you like, and stop when it's no fun anymore, or because your back hurts. But the farm didn't need me. It was just kid's fun for me, and at best a bit of relief for the people actually working. At the lower ages, the relief was probably more from my merry presence than from any work I did.

In the days of my parent's youth, they did need the kids. Which the kids remember as necessary, as social family events, but definitely not as fun and playing. Everyone is happy that the kids went to school, got jobs, and didn't have to send my generation into the fields to make ends meet.

And truth to tell, those kids might very well have been better off if they had had more time for schoolwork, and less in the fields. For all the moral fibre you might get from picking strawberries, in the end it is not exactly a valuable skill. My grandparents knew this very well, both of them had not had the education they wanted because they had to start working early. And for all the hard work and saving they did in their lives, it's still social security that made their old age secure and comfortable.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Dauric » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:06 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:
Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?


Yep. What's the problem with children working when the work doesn't interfere with them going to school and is safe? Can a six year old even tell the difference between picking cherries and playing?


My sarcasm detector seems to be on the fritz as well...

I mean... To honestly make that argument would indicate either a complete and total lack of remembering being a child, or having had a childhood that involved no chores whatsoever.

I mean, when I was five my parents bought a fixer-upper of a house, and every weekend we'd be working on the house. Now while like most young boys I was fascinated with the power tools I wasn't allowed to use, but the months of weekends I was using a hacksaw with a metal-cutting blade to cut the old wrought-iron railings from the patio down to disposable sections sucked. Hell, memories of scalding-hot water doing the dishes -still- come back to me today.

So... I can't really comprehend how that -wouldn't- be in <sarcasm> tags, but the delivery was so straitlaced that it seems to invoke Poe's Law.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Heisenberg » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:32 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?

I think it's important to recognize that the situations are not as black and white as the laws are. Certainly Upton Sinclair's stories of children losing their ears to frostbite while packing meat are to be avoided, but 10 year-olds picking berries with their parents is not on the same level.

To me, the defining factor here is that the kids are helping their parents. Arguments can be made for 'parents know best' or 'family business' even though the parents don't own the farm.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby iChef » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:37 pm UTC

What the article describes is different than what those of us are describing who did this work as kids. I do agree the main problem is the poor treatment of the adult workers. I hadn't heard about the earlier report, but I did pick blueberries in Michigan as a kid. It wasn't always fun, but it was a good way to make a little extra money and stay out of trouble all summer. I never got the message that said if you work really hard someday you can scratch out a meager living picking fruit. It was closer to if you don't go to school and study during the other months you will be forced to pick blueberries forever. I'd say the experience was a net positive.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:43 pm UTC

I think the bigger concern is, what happens if the families lose the extra income?

That and the whole paying below minimum wage thing. As much as I'm opposed to the minimum wage in general*, I'm even more opposed to only selectively enforcing it.

*If society states that people should have at least X, then society (taxes) should provide X rather than requiring the businesses to provide X.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:48 pm UTC

iChef wrote:What the article describes is different than what those of us are describing who did this work as kids. I do agree the main problem is the poor treatment of the adult workers. I hadn't heard about the earlier report, but I did pick blueberries in Michigan as a kid. It wasn't always fun, but it was a good way to make a little extra money and stay out of trouble all summer. I never got the message that said if you work really hard someday you can scratch out a meager living picking fruit. It was closer to if you don't go to school and study during the other months you will be forced to pick blueberries forever. I'd say the experience was a net positive.
I agree with this fully. I grew up working on large tracts of land on a farm. It was hard work but I feel like it has contributed to my excellent work ethic now. I'm strong and capable and the money was better than nothing. I feel like non-rural areas are simply ignorant of what children are actually capable of. I wasn't forced to do anything, but I was rewarded for my work. There is a line that can be crossed and people who cross that line should be dealt with. But we really end up coddling our kids nowadays and they bitch about vacuuming or doing dishes when that was on the lucky chores list on the farm.

If this work was not worthwhile, individuals would not do it. For an individual who has no other option, this is better than nothing. By taking away the ability for the really poor to at least do something, you only harm them. The existence of minimum wage harms everyone, especially individuals who can't get a job because of it.
Last edited by gavin on Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:50 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby JBJ » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:49 pm UTC

Sarcasm detectors may be broken because the US labor laws, as they relate to agriculture, are pretty lax.

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the minimum age for agriculture work at 14, with exemptions that allow children under 14 to work as well.
Allowed at 12 or 13 with parental consent and if the child works on the same farm.
Allowed under 12 if the farm is owned and operated by the parent(s), or if the child is employed with parental consent on a "small farm" as defined by the FLSA
A small farm in that definition is one that does not exceed more than 500 man days of labor per quarter.

In the above exemptions, the child is receiving a wage for their individual work. Also, children under 14 also cannot work more than 8 weeks per year.

A child can "work" on a family farm at any age with no restrictions because it's not technically considered work. It's an activity. There are no expectations set on the child to meet some level of productivity, and there is no agreed upon wage.

From what I can tell, the issue is whether or not the farms these kids are working on are considered small farms. If not, then it's a clear violation of labor laws. If they fall under the small farm rule, then, well... it's technically legal as long as the kids don't exceed the 8 weeks per year. That is, if the farm is paying the kids. If the parents are taking their kids to work, and the kids aren't being paid but boosting the parent's yield, that really falls more on the parents than the farm.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:54 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:From what I can tell, the issue is whether or not the farms these kids are working on are considered small farms. If not, then it's a clear violation of labor laws. If they fall under the small farm rule, then, well... it's technically legal as long as the kids don't exceed the 8 weeks per year. That is, if the farm is paying the kids. If the parents are taking their kids to work, and the kids aren't being paid but boosting the parent's yield, that really falls more on the parents than the farm.
A strawberry farm doesn't really even have 8 weeks of harvesting in any one area. It's a pretty small window of harvesting opportunity. So they certainly can't have done 8 weeks of work on any of those farms. If they work other farms then the parents are the ones to blame for child labor.

Disclaimer: I've really only tended to strawberries in New England states. I am assuming that Washington harvesting windows are similar and that may be wrong.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Vaniver » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:35 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?
Yes. Banning voluntary contracts between individuals is questionable, as is the idea that children should not be able to accept pay for work.

Note that it would be perfectly legal for these children to do this as volunteer work. Consider the Girl Scouts, who use young children as door-to-door salesmen- are those children not working? Do adults not get paid for very similar jobs? For some reason, as soon as you reward the children directly for their time, it becomes a crime- instead you need to weasel your way through with prizes or paying for club activities. Apparently child labor is only acceptable when it's collectivized?
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Sockmonkey » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:47 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:I think the bigger concern is, what happens if the families lose the extra income?

That and the whole paying below minimum wage thing. As much as I'm opposed to the minimum wage in general*, I'm even more opposed to only selectively enforcing it.

*If society states that people should have at least X, then society (taxes) should provide X rather than requiring the businesses to provide X.

The point of a minimum wage is to prevent employers from exploiting the desperate by paying them less than the work they do is worth.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Vaniver » Sun Aug 14, 2011 6:29 pm UTC

Sockmonkey wrote:The point of a minimum wage is to prevent employers from exploiting the desperate by paying them less than the work they do is worth.
How do you determine the point of a policy? The stated intention of the people that put it in place?
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 6:57 pm UTC

How about the intentions of the people who keep it in place?

But I'm pretty sure we both realize that talking about the "point," rather than the consequences, of a policy is irrelevant.

Sockmonkey wrote:The point of a minimum wage is to prevent employers from exploiting the desperate by paying them less than the work they do is worth.

Labor is only worth anything to someone. Of I'm willing to work for $5/hr, doesn't that mean that $5/hr is worth it to me?
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Vaniver » Sun Aug 14, 2011 7:02 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:But I'm pretty sure we both realize that talking about the "point," rather than the consequences, of a policy is irrelevant.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby legopelle » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:33 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Labor is only worth anything to someone. Of I'm willing to work for $5/hr, doesn't that mean that $5/hr is worth it to me?

If this where a perfect world, where everybody had the resolution and luxury to decline work not meeting the criteria, this would be true. But of course, that is not the case. When you have a family to feed, some money is better then none, and the wage can easily be negotiated downwards when a lot of desperate workers seek the little employment available.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:07 pm UTC

legopelle wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Labor is only worth anything to someone. Of I'm willing to work for $5/hr, doesn't that mean that $5/hr is worth it to me?

If this where a perfect world, where everybody had the resolution and luxury to decline work not meeting the criteria, this would be true. But of course, that is not the case. When you have a family to feed, some money is better then none, and the wage can easily be negotiated downwards when a lot of desperate workers seek the little employment available.
At some point, the work would cross the threshold of not being worth it and the farm won't be able to get as many workers at they need. Essentially, supply/demand works both ways when you consider the labor market to be a commodity of sorts.

The problem with minimum wage is multi-fold. The increase in pay makes businesses increase prices to cover the cost. This means that if minimum wage goes up a dollar in my hometown, then every service I pay for will be a little more expensive. It is possible for minimum wage employees to actually lose money in the end because the products they need to buy may go up in price enough to outweigh or trivialize the increase. The companies that can't raise the cost of their product due to competition from states that have a lower minimum wage or due to other complications will also let some workers go.

So the necessities become more expensive and some lose their jobs. Does not sound like minimum wage is such a good thing. To be truly effective, individual industries should have individual regulations. It does not make sense to blankly stamp a rule over everything. Especially not when the labor market is exposed to the market pressures of going elsewhere.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:10 pm UTC

If society is going to claim that people need at least X to live on, which is the better scenario?

1) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, but no employer is allowed to pay that low, so A is unemployed and receives X through welfare.
2) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, and is hired for $4/hr, and A receives both $4/hr and X through welfare.

Both situations, the person receives the same amount from welfare. Except in 2, Person/family A has a little extra money to use (~$8000/yr minus tax), and the economy has a total gain of whatever A's work is worth.

That's why I feel that if society claims there should be a living wage or whatever minimum standard, society should pay it and not tell employers to eat the losses and pay it.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:31 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:If society is going to claim that people need at least X to live on, which is the better scenario?

1) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, but no employer is allowed to pay that low, so A is unemployed and receives X through welfare.
2) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, and is hired for $4/hr, and A receives both $4/hr and X through welfare.

Both situations, the person receives the same amount from welfare. Except in 2, Person/family A has a little extra money to use (~$8000/yr minus tax), and the economy has a total gain of whatever A's work is worth.

That's why I feel that if society claims there should be a living wage or whatever minimum standard, society should pay it and not tell employers to eat the losses and pay it.
Exactly (with regards to your comments on the effect of minimum wage), there is also pressure on companies to make money. If a company does not profit, it will not exist. Minimum wage can drive companies out of business, losing all the jobs and taxes it would have otherwise generated. If strawberry companies can't profitably harvest strawberries, then they won't. At some price, people stop buying strawberries.

What X is though and how it is decided could lead to other problems though.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:33 pm UTC

legopelle wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Labor is only worth anything to someone. Of I'm willing to work for $5/hr, doesn't that mean that $5/hr is worth it to me?

If this where a perfect world, where everybody had the resolution and luxury to decline work not meeting the criteria, this would be true. But of course, that is not the case. When you have a family to feed, some money is better then none, and the wage can easily be negotiated downwards when a lot of desperate workers seek the little employment available.

I'm confused. Are you disagreeing with me? Because you seem to be saying that, in some situations, $5/hr actually is worth it.
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Decker
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Decker » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:38 pm UTC

I believe that legopelle is saying that, just because someone takes a job for five dollars an hour, doesn't mean that it's worth it or that they person taking the job even thinks that it's worth it. People work for an amount of money below what their work is worth because they feel that they don't have a choice.
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I was angry with my foe. I told it not. My wrath did grow.

Zauderer
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zauderer » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:57 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Zauderer wrote:Is my sarcasm detector broken or are several people on this forum defending child labor?
Yes. Banning voluntary contracts between individuals is questionable, as is the idea that children should not be able to accept pay for work.


So you are essentially advocating a return to labor and living conditions as during the Industrial Revolution?

After all, unqualified and even some qualified labor can be found in abundance, so the market laws will dictate very low wages - and since nobody can support a child with wages that low, the whole family will have to work.

CorruptUser wrote:If society is going to claim that people need at least X to live on, which is the better scenario?

1) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, but no employer is allowed to pay that low, so A is unemployed and receives X through welfare.
2) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, and is hired for $4/hr, and A receives both $4/hr and X through welfare.

Both situations, the person receives the same amount from welfare. Except in 2, Person/family A has a little extra money to use (~$8000/yr minus tax), and the economy has a total gain of whatever A's work is worth.


Except in basically every welfare system I've come across, it's more like that:
1) A is unemployed and receives X through welfare.
2) A is hired, gets Y as income and X-Y through welfare (or maybe something like X-(Y*0.9)). If he refuses to take up the job, he gets nothing for a few weeks or months.

That's why I feel that if society claims there should be a living wage or whatever minimum standard, society should pay it and not tell employers to eat the losses and pay it.


Why subsidize bad employers? If you can't pay your employees living wages, change your business model or increase your prices.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:08 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:Why subsidize bad employers? If you can't pay your employees living wages, change your business model or increase your prices.
I'm sure we'd be glad to create a machine that automatically harvests strawberries. Screw anyone who is looking for employment.

Just because an employer can't pay their workers minimum wage doesn't mean that they don't have the most efficient business model possible. There are stronger market factors at work here than just a need to start cutting corners. There are costs associated with planting, growing, harvesting, shipping and ensuring the quality of a product.

How much are you willing to pay for a pound of strawberries? If it goes up $5/lb, fewer people will buy them compared to other produce and so they'll still lose money and be unable to pay their workers that much. On the other hand, cutting corners may result in you not getting quality products which could result in unhealthy produce that can harm you or is otherwise unnattractive (i.e. moldy, but not so bad that you can't cut away an wash the healthy bits).

As for your wellfare model. What's bad with that? A person needs X to survive. If they get paid less than X the government pays the rest. The fact that we don't pay the individual if they refuse to work is good in my opinion. Anyone refusing to contribute to society should not eat by society's hands. This, of course, excludes those who are unable to contribute for legitimate reasons.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Vaniver » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:14 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:So you are essentially advocating a return to labor and living conditions as during the Industrial Revolution?
Why sneak in living conditions, there? I think that children doing productive work is good for their development and good for whoever they work for (else they wouldn't hire them!). I think that improvements in living conditions have come almost entirely from technological development, and so turning back the clock there isn't really a policy question (good luck trying to ban indoor plumbing).

It is common practice for parents to give their children an allowance in return for them completing chores. Why not let them unlock their full earning potential outside the home? Why restrict the options available to the people who get the most from additional options?

Zauderer wrote:Except in basically every welfare system I've come across, it's more like that:
Which is why he's suggesting a better system.

Zauderer wrote:Why subsidize bad employers? If you can't pay your employees living wages, change your business model or increase your prices.
Why subsidize bad employees? If your skills aren't enough to earn a living wage, change your industry or increase your skills.
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:15 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:So you are essentially advocating a return to labor and living conditions as during the Industrial Revolution?
Clearly the only difference between then and now are labor laws, so if we repeal labor laws, the streets will be full of horse shit again. QED.

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CorruptUser
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:22 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:
That's why I feel that if society claims there should be a living wage or whatever minimum standard, society should pay it and not tell employers to eat the losses and pay it.


Why subsidize bad employers? If you can't pay your employees living wages, change your business model or increase your prices.


And for the people whose labor simply can't produce enough to be worth whatever society determines to be a living wage? If a living wage is determined to be whatever 1000 burger flips a day are worth, and the guy can only flip 500 burgers, no employer will hire that person and pay 1000 burger flips.
Last edited by CorruptUser on Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:28 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby greengiant » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:26 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:If society is going to claim that people need at least X to live on, which is the better scenario?

1) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, but no employer is allowed to pay that low, so A is unemployed and receives X through welfare.
2) Person/family A's labor is only worth $4/hr, and is hired for $4/hr, and A receives both $4/hr and X through welfare.

Both situations, the person receives the same amount from welfare. Except in 2, Person/family A has a little extra money to use (~$8000/yr minus tax), and the economy has a total gain of whatever A's work is worth.


The scenario you like (person receives low wage and some welfare) is basically no different to there being a minimum wage and the government propping up businesses that are then unable to make a profit. The only real difference is that the government gives money to the company who then passes it on to the worker rather than giving it straight to the worker.

Plus, it has lots of tangential benefits. It means the worker doesn't have to go through the often difficult and invasive system of applying for welfare, something which is expensive for the government to administer and which also gives them license to root around through lots of citizens private financial info. It also means that government money is only spent on those businesses who genuinely cannot stand on their own two feet rather than those who try to underpay their workers in the knowledge that the government will pick up the slack.

Would I be right in assuming you would also support this, basically equivalent, system?

Not that I agree with your analysis of minimum wage, by the way. I live in a country which has a pretty generous minimum wage and despite lots of people warning, at the time of introduction, that it would plunge us into a recession, the consensus is that any negative effects to our economy were negligible.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby Zauderer » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:29 pm UTC

gavin wrote: I'm sure we'd be glad to create a machine that automatically harvests strawberries. Screw anyone who is looking for employment.


That would be even better - we'd have the same economical gain with less labor. Why work when machines can work for us?

Just because an employer can't pay their workers minimum wage doesn't mean that they don't have the most efficient business model possible. There are stronger market factors at work here than just a need to start cutting corners. There are costs associated with planting, growing, harvesting, shipping and ensuring the quality of a product.


Then they have to raise the prices. You might have the most efficient supermarket in the world, but if you keep buying objects for $2 apiece and sell them at $1, you're going to go broke.

How much are you willing to pay for a pound of strawberries? If it goes up $5/lb, fewer people will buy them compared to other produce and so they'll still lose money and be unable to pay their workers that much.


Of course the price of strawberries will rise - but also the money available for consumption will.

As for your wellfare model. What's bad with that? A person needs X to survive. If they get paid less than X the government pays the rest. The fact that we don't pay the individual if they refuse to work is good in my opinion. Anyone refusing to contribute to society should not eat by society's hands. This, of course, excludes those who are unable to contribute for legitimate reasons.


As I mentioned, that's essentially a subsidy for bad employers. The employer pays them a low wage (which they'd never accept if they wouldn't be forced to) and the society pays the rest.

Vaniver wrote:Why sneak in living conditions, there?


Because low wages won't allow you to afford a house or a car.

I think that children doing productive work is good for their development and good for whoever they work for (else they wouldn't hire them!).


I don't think so and I thought this line of thinking was dead along with stuff like "women shouldn't work outside the house" and "the king is king because God made him king".

I think that improvements in living conditions have come almost entirely from technological development, and so turning back the clock there isn't really a policy question (good luck trying to ban indoor plumbing).


No point in having a technological development and almost nobody able to afford it.

It is common practice for parents to give their children an allowance in return for them completing chores. Why not let them unlock their full earning potential outside the home? Why restrict the options available to the people who get the most from additional options?


Yeah, why not let them work 14 hours a day, six days a week in the mine earning almost nothing!

Why subsidize bad employees? If your skills aren't enough to earn a living wage, change your industry or increase your skills.


Why use society's money to pay for a police? If you can't defend your life or your property from criminals, buy a gun or practice Karate.

Also, while this may allow you to earn a living wage, it will make somebody else earn less than that. There is simply not enough work available.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:31 pm UTC

No, you would not be right. Far from it.

I want the negative income tax.

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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby PictureSarah » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:38 pm UTC

Gears wrote:This happens on every family farm in America. Oh the horror. :roll:


People have already said this, but did you miss the part where these children are not on a family farm, they are on huge commercial farms? They're not here to "learn what hard work means and how to save money," they're here because their parents can't even earn minimum wage doing this kind of work, so they need their children to help supplement their meager income. They can't afford basic necessities, let alone, for instance, childcare. Do you think the children get to keep the money and learn about spending and saving? No. That money goes into supporting their family, a task which should not belong to children, and their health suffers for it. Do you think these families have access to fantastic health coverage or doctors who understand the particular issues these families face?
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Re: Child Labor in Washington

Postby gavin » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:12 pm UTC

Zauderer wrote:That would be even better - we'd have the same economical gain with less labor. Why work when machines can work for us?
Until the day where machines do all or most of our work to the point where the individual does not need to work, the individuals who lose the jobs will only be put out by it. However, if you don't care about the individual then this is quite another thing from paying the worker more.

Of course the price of strawberries will rise - but also the money available for consumption will.
By magic? You're telling me that individuals who work on strawberry farms for minimum wage are then going to the store and buy strawberries at a greater rate than the number of people who don't buy them because of the price decrease? No, I've worked strawberry fields, you get sick of the berries fast. Workers do eat as they go.

As I mentioned, that's essentially a subsidy for bad employers. The employer pays them a low wage (which they'd never accept if they wouldn't be forced to) and the society pays the rest.
Two points.
1. Again, employers in an industry in which it is unprofitable to pay workers minimum wage are not necessarily bad employers. The market pressures are often to blame and you really can't change that.
2. No one is ever forced to take a job. However, in this case they are actually getting paid a living wage for the job they're doing. Let's say the living wage is $8 and your job pays $5. If the government covers the other $3 it's BECAUSE the individual is working and so they are actually getting paid minimum wage anyways. Now, some regulation should occur. The problem is that we haven't established what percentage of revenue is just to take home and how much is just taking advantage of poor workers and a government that will subsidize.


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