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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: September 13, 2023 02:50 PM
From: Representative Ryan E. Mackenzie
To: All House members
Subject: Protecting Vulnerable Children from Labor Exploitation
I am preparing to introduce legislation that will strengthen our Child Labor Act to provide stronger penalties in the law for unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the most vulnerable children – and to provide cross reporting requirements that will notify other appropriate authorities in specific situations.
The U.S. Department of Labor has noted a 69% increase in the number child labor violations since just 5 years ago. Likewise, the PA Department of Labor and Industry recently announced that the department has opened 276% more child labor cases since January than they did during the same period last year. 
Separately, and according to recent media reports, in 2021 and 2022, about 263,000 unaccompanied minors were placed with sponsors in the United States. Over 34,000 of these kids were placed with nonfamily sponsors or distant relatives. Unaccompanied minors – sometimes 12 or 13 years old – have been found cleaning slaughterhouses at night, working in factories and doing other dangerous prohibited occupations.
I believe that employers who know they are taking advantage of vulnerable children – including unaccompanied minors – is the primary factor in the recent increase in serious child labor violations. Any violation of child labor laws in not appropriate, but some violations can be much more serious and dangerous to the child than others. We should amend our state laws to better protect any at-risk child who is the subject of a child labor violation – and more strictly penalize the employers who would take advantage of a vulnerable child. 
Therefore, my bill will make several amendments to the Child Labor Act:
  • A violation of the act will be a second-degree misdemeanor if the violation 1) was willful, and 2) the employer knew or should have known that the child was without proper parental care and control. This will provide harsher penalties for employers who knew of the child’s vulnerable situation – and took advantage of that child.
  • The Department of Labor and Industry will be required, when applicable, to cross-report to appropriate federal authorities and child welfare authorities.
  • To provide more information on the status of child labor law enforcement in PA, an annual report will be required to detail the nature of violations, the locations, and the industries where violations are most frequently occurring.
All child labor violations should be taken seriously, but we should be providing stronger penalties in the law for the most serious violations and working to ensure the safety of all children.  I hope that you will join me as a cosponsor.

Introduced as HB1714