Hawley, Booker Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Crack Down on Child Labor Practices, Hold Corporations Accountable for Violations

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Today U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the bipartisan Preventing Child Labor Exploitation Act to prohibit companies that illegally employ children from securing coveted federal government contracts. Senator Hawley’s legislation comes as the Department of Labor recently reported a startling 69 percent increase in illegal child labor since 2018. This dramatic uptick in child-labor exploitation includes a series of high-profile cases involving minors employed in dangerous jobs at sanitation and meatpacking plants.

“Child labor is an abomination and it has no place in our country. Companies that illegally employ children must be held accountable—especially those that contract with the federal government. This bipartisan legislation requires federal contractors to root out child labor in their operations and has the teeth to go after those who don’t comply,” said Senator Hawley.

“Exploitation of children by big corporations to drive profit is an abhorrent practice, but is not a new one. Across the country, major corporations are relying on children to clean dangerous machinery, handle toxic chemicals, and work exhausting overnight shifts in their facilities for low wages and no benefits. Often, this work is done in violation of existing federal labor laws, but employers have shielded themselves from any accountability by relying on third-party vendors with long records of labor infractions. Despite efforts by Congress and this Administration to challenge these bad practices, too few companies have taken significant steps to address the ongoing child labor issues in their facilities. That’s why today I am joining Senator Hawley to say that, at a bare minimum, there is no reason that the federal government should contract with companies violating child labor law. We must ensure that federal contracts support good-paying jobs, and do not benefit corporations that continue to rely on children working in dangerous environments,” said Senator Booker. 

The Preventing Child Labor Exploitation Act would:

  • Require federal contractors to disclose to the Department of Labor any child labor violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Criminalize a federal contractor’s failure to make required disclosures.
  • Render repeat offenders ineligible for federal contracts for a period of 4 years.

Read the full bill text here.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, Senator Hawley questioned Robin Dunn Marcos, Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, about the 85,000 children the Biden Administration has lost track of, leaving them vulnerable to human traffickers and dangerous child-labor practices.

Senator Hawley sent a letter last month to Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King, demanding answers after a disturbing report from The New York Times exposed unsafe, illegal child-labor practices within the company.

Earlier this year, Senator Hawley introduced the Corporate Responsibility for Child Labor Elimination Act, legislation compelling large corporations to eradicate unlawful child labor from their operations in the United States. Senator Hawley also sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding a full-scale effort be made to locate the nearly 85,000 missing migrant children.