Her new child labor law is a speedy response to FDR’s New Deal-era Fair Labor Standards Act, says Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders met with reporters for a scheduled press conference following recent passage of the Youth Hiring Act of 2023, or House Bill 1410. Through this legislation, laws were changed that previously required signed parental consent or age verification for the employment of children under 16 years of age.
Sanders stated that she was pleased with the approval of the legislation, which passed by overwhelming margins in both chambers of the Arkansas legislature. Instrumental in the passage of the new law were efforts of the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability. Nick Stehl, a spokesperson for the lobbying arm of that group — the Organization Solutions Project — remarked that increased employment had already resulted from his group’s efforts: 115 new lobbyists have been hired by OSP since 2016. He added that inserting government “into the conversation between parent and child” advantages no one and is “not within the province of elected assemblies.”
When questioned about FGA’s concomitant preoccupation with a state-by-state campaign to forestall access to anti-poverty programs and Medicaid expansion, Sanders rushed to Stehl’s defense, remarking that these efforts would save “beaucoup federal bucks,” and “besides, they have an answer” to the plight of the newly disadvantaged families: “the employment of their children in the various slaughterhouses, factories, and sweatshops throughout the great state of Arkansas.”
Sanders also pointed to child labor as a “convincing solution” to profitably employing the children of illegal immigrants. “I mean,” she said, “you give a wetback a drumstick, you give him a meal; you hand him a butcher knife, you give him a career.”
Chick-fil-A, one of the state’s largest employers, recently posted newspaper ads recruiting “enthusiastic, hard-working people fourteen years of age and up.” Sanders defended the recruitment of children, saying “not everyone was meant for school; I never attended school.” She went on to add that her father, the former governor, “kept me chained to a stove until I started squiring out the kids.” She’s none the worse for the experience, she said, adding that “I ain’t stupid, you know.”
Sanders went on to say that “when you reduce costs in the hierarchy of production, everyone profits: you get your chicken cheaper. It’s all good.”
Sanders said that recent similar legislation, passed by the Iowa Senate at 4:52 a.m. on March 17, is “a natural response” to the New Deal-era Fair Labor Standards Act shepherded through Congress by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “That bastard!” said Sanders, gritting her teeth. The conditions then extant, explained another spokesperson for Governor Sanders, no longer exist today and instead “impose obsolete and arbitrary burdens” on “the employment nexus that is the child.” When reminded that, during the Great Depression, children were often employed in mills at fifty or sixty cents per hour, Sanders got a look of longing on her face and murmured, “The good old days.” She noted that unemployment across the nation is low, which makes it the perfect time to introduce new job opportunities into the economy.
Said Stehl, “families like mine want more of the freedom that allows their children to flourish.” Stehl said that he has several children in that 13–15-year-old age group himself. When asked what employment they held, he admitted that while they were not employed as yet, they were looking for just the right opportunity. Stehl, who makes seven hundred thousand dollars a year as a lobbyist, says that his kids will “almost inevitably wind up at a slaughterhouse,” provided that they can locate one in Palm Beach.
Adding children to the employment mix, according to Sanders, “could be a goldmine in the making. Children are a natural for the chicken industry,” she said, noting that “kids are more adaptable, they heal much faster than adults, and they take fewer breaks, as most of them don’t yet smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.”
When asked what else was new in her state, Sanders lamented that the minimum wage had increased to eleven dollars per hour in January 2021. “I’ve proposed legislation to roll back the minimum to seven and a quarter,” she said, “to keep it in compliance” with the federal standard. She spoke enviously of Texas and Kentucky, where wage rates remain fixed at the federal minimum. “Mitch McConnel and Greg Abbott may be a couple of pricks with how they treat President Trump, but they know what they’re doing as far as fiscal solvency is concerned,” she said.
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