Belabored: Child Labor, Child Strikes, with Jack Hodgson

Belabored: Child Labor, Child Strikes, with Jack Hodgson

Recent news reports have revealed that child labor is not just a historical relic in the United States—and some politicians want to undermine existing regulations, claiming that less oversight is good for business.

A fourteen-year-old boy links bed springs in a factory in Boston, Massachusetts in 1917. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress via Getty Images)

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When you hear the words “child labor,” your mind may go to the turn-of-the-century photographs taken by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine of the grim lives of tiny laborers toiling in mines and urban sweatshops. Or you may think about the children in Africa or South Asia who dig for precious metals or harvest crops on plantations; their exploitation is the target of many international human-rights campaigns and condemnations from various Global North governments. But recent news reports have revealed that child labor is alive and well in the United States in 2023. Fueled in large part by the influx of migrants from Central America, many “unaccompanied minors,” or children living with relatives, have to work to support families back home. Meanwhile, some politicians are actively working to undermine existing child labor restrictions—as weak as they already are—under the pretext that giving businesses the flexibility to employ child workers for longer hours and with less oversight is actually beneficial for society. 

Jack Hodgson, a visiting professor in history at the University of Roehampton, joins the podcast to discuss child labor throughout U.S. history and in the context of labor and civil rights struggles that continue to this day.

In other news, we look at Brandon Johnson’s victory in the Chicago mayoral race and the legacy of the Chicago Teachers Union; a new union drive by New York University contract faculty with Hannah Gurman; the school service workers’ strike in Los Angeles; and why France is on fire over pension policies. 

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Belaboreds tenth season is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.


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Kari Lydersen, Brandon Johnson Won the Race for Chicago’s Mayor By Loving and Fighting for the CityIn These Times

Sara Wexler, Full-Time Contingent Faculty at New York University Are Trying to UnionizeJacobin

Angelique Chrisafis, Hundreds of thousands of people take to French streets amid fears of violence, Guardian

Ellen Francis and Claire Parker, Why French workers are fighting to retire at 62, Washington Post 

Jon Peltz, In Los Angeles, 60,000 Education Workers Just Went on Strike and Won Big, Jacobin  

Megan Giovannetti and Jasmin Joseph, “If They Strike, We Won’t Cross the Picket Line”: LA Teachers And Service Workers UniteIn These Times


Jack Hodgson, Child labor remains a problem in the United States, Washington Post

Hannah Dreier, Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.New York Times

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