The U.S. Department of Labor has reported a significant increase in child labor violations, with some well-known companies employing children in dangerous conditions.
The tight labor market has led many employers to seek the cheapest available labor, with state legislators even pushing bills that would limit legal protections for underage workers, CNN reports.
Among the companies implicated is Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), a major provider of food safety sanitation in the U.S. The company, owned by the world’s largest private equity firm, Blackstone Group, was found to have employed 31 children between the ages of 13 and 17 to work for meat industry giants like Cargill and JBS USA across Minnesota and Nebraska.
“Child labor is an issue that gets to the heart of who we are as a country and who we want to be. Like the President, we believe that any child working in a dangerous or hazardous environment is one child too many,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.
Both Cargill and JBS have stated they have zero tolerance for underage labor and have ended their contracts with PSSI. PSSI defended its hiring practices, stating it takes extensive steps to prevent individuals under 18 from being employed.
Despite the rise in child labor violations, states across the country are introducing legislation to weaken child labor laws. At least 10 states have introduced or passed bills in the past two years meant to weaken protections against employing children, according to a March report by the Economic Policy Institute.
Produced in association with Benzinga
(Additional reporting provided by Benzinga Neuro)