Teen dies in sawmill accident as US states aim to roll back child labor laws | Wisconsin [wafact]

A 16-year-old boy has died following an industrial accident at a sawmill in Wisconsin.

Police received an early-morning call last Thursday regarding an unresponsive teenager at Florence Hardwoods, a sawmill in northern Wisconsin, according to the Florence county sheriff’s office. Deputies and paramedics transported the teenager to a local hospital before transferring him to Milwaukee children’s hospital.

The boy, whom authorities have not identified by name, died from his injuries on Saturday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been notified about the incident and an investigation is taking place.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, students and co-workers,” the sheriff’s department said.

A GoFundMe page appears to have been set up for the family following the incident, saying: “Our small community is in absolute shock.”

“This tremendous loss will bring new life to seven more people, including his mother,” the page added in reference to the teenager’s status as an organ donor.

Fourteen states across the country – including Wisconsin – have introduced proposals to roll back child labor protections.

“The trend reflects a coordinated multi-industry push to expand employer access to low-wage labor and weaken state child labor laws in ways that contradict federal protections,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.

In a statement to the Guardian, Skip Mark, a University of Rhode Island professor specializing in labor and human rights, noted the prevalence of child labor in the country’s agriculture industry.

“The US Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 helped limit child labor in many ways. However, it did and still does not apply to the agricultural sector, where most child labor in the US and most child injuries and deaths occur,” said Mark. “Child labor is most common in agriculture where children are maimed, killed, exposed to dangerous chemicals, underpaid, and we’ve known about these issues for decades.”

He added: “Child labor is hard to measure, and most estimates are terrible and should not be taken at face value. Governments don’t want to report how bad child labor is because it makes them look bad.

“Businesses don’t want to report that they have hired children because then they would have to pay fines. Children and their parents don’t want to report child labor because they need the job to support themselves and would lose their job if it was reported.”

Terri Gerstein, the director of the Project on State and Local Enforcement at the Harvard Law School Center for Labor and a Just Economy, echoed similar sentiments.

“To stop violations of child labor laws, we need more funding for enforcement, higher penalties, and clear, attainable ways to hold lead corporations accountable for violations in their supply chains,” Gerstein told the Guardian.

In a recent testimony to the Senate judiciary committee, Gerstein laid out various law reform measures surrounding the issue.

Those include creating a private right of action for child labor violations, creating and funding a right to counsel for unaccompanied minors in their immigration cases which would increase the chances of detecting child labor violations, as well as adding liquidated or compensatory damages to the child labor statute which would help compensate victims for their experiences.

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