House Bill 49, sponsored by Rep. Linda Chaney, is a radical proposal that would undermine decades of child labor protections and expose minors to exploitation and abuse. The bill would remove restrictions on the hours, days, and nights that 16- and 17-year-olds can work, and prevent local governments from passing stricter curfews for teen workers. The bill is backed by a conservative think tank funded by billionaire donors, who see it as a way to address labor shortages and boost profits.
HB 49 is not only bad for children, but also for the state’s economy and education system. By allowing employers to schedule teens for unlimited hours, without breaks, overnight, and for more than six days in a row, the bill would jeopardize our kids’ health, safety, and well-being. It would also interfere with their school performance, attendance, and graduation rates, and limit their opportunities for extracurricular activities, college preparation, and civic engagement. According to the Florida Department of Education, only 86.9% of students graduated from high school in 2023, ranking Florida 40th in the nation. This bill would only make that worse. It seems like Florida Republicans are purposely trying to reduce the effectiveness of our public education system so they can continue to push for private school vouchers.
Moreover, the state’s public education system is ranked 42nd in student success, 27th in student safety, and 43rd in school quality. That puts Florida’s education system 42nd overall in the country, as it has one of the worst quality education systems, and its students are one of the least successful academically nationwide. HB 49 would worsen these outcomes by depriving students of the time and energy they need to learn and grow.
And as if the employment situation in Florida weren’t bad enough, HB 49 would create unfair competition for adult workers, who may be displaced by cheaper and more vulnerable teen labor.
HB 49 is a shameful attempt to roll back the clock on decades of child labor laws in the state of Florida. It is opposed by labor unions, civil rights groups, education advocates, and child welfare organizations, who recognize the harmful effects of the bill on Florida’s children. The bill should be rejected by the state legislature, and if passed, challenged in court. Florida’s children deserve better than to be exploited by greedy employers and politicians.
Air Force veteran, writing about the intersection of domestic policy and national security, especially as it effects his home state of Florida.