Friday, August 10, 2007

Ratify the Child Labor Amendment

In doing some research into constitutional amendments, I learned some interesting things. Currently, there are 27 Amendments to the US Constitution. The first 10 are known as the Bill of Rights. This much we all know. (Some of us may not remember the exact number of amendments, but we know about the Bill of Rights.) Or do we? The first ten Amendments that were ratified were actually part of a set of twelve Amendments. Of the two that did not get ratified at that time, one was about a formula for the number of US Representatives which is still technically pending. The other Amendment eventually did get ratified to become our 27th (or, if you prefer, XXVII) and most recent. It requires that before any bill increasing the pay for the Representatives and Senators could "take effect", an election of Representatives shall have "intervened", meaning come first, so the voters could tell them, "No, you can't have that pay raise you voted yourself, but your successor will have to start there." I guess the question has become, technically, "What does 'take effect' mean?" Does it mean start and keep going once that first election of Representatives has occurred, never to be stopped except by another separate law? Or does it mean that no new pay increase, regardless of when passed, could begin until another election of Representatives? If that's more the case, then these annual cost-of-living pay increases that Congress gets may be unconstitutional. But what can we do about it? Ask them? You know, that's crazy enough that it just might work!

What surprised me was that there have only been five other Amendments that have been sent to the states for ratification. For some reason, I suspected that there would have been more. But only two of those other six have been rejected due to time limit expiration. There are four still, technically, pending. One of them is the The Child Labor Amendment.

Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age.

Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.

I was also surprised to find that not only was it still pending because it had no expiration date written into it, it had only been ratified by 28 states. The folks living in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming can all be proud that your states have ratified this Amendment. The State Senates of New York, Mississippi, and Nebraska (before it became Unicameral) ratified it, but their respective Lower Houses did not. And even though they can still later ratify it, as "rejecting" it technically means nothing, the following twelve states actually rejected the Child Labor Amendment. Those proud states are: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and on at least three distinct occasions, Louisiana.

It's not too late. Even if it's just the ten states that haven't finished deciding one way or the other, it can still become an Amendment if the Legislatures of Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and South Dakota all decide to do the right thing and ratify this Amendment. You may not believe this, but there was a time in this country's history when a child who reached the age of five or six was put to work for the family, either in a field picking crops or at a factory. Laws alone are not a guarantee of rights, and states are free to set their own rules. I wonder what kind of Child Labor Laws they have in the states that rejected this Amendment? Especially Lousiana, which seemed emphatic about not ratifying it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The reason why this amendment wasn't eventually ratified was basically a Supreme Court ruling that gave exactly the mentioned rights to the congress. Afterwards, the amendment was kind of moot and the ratification process stopped.
However, I hope that the states will ratify all proposed amendment in the future including this one! All but the Corwin Amendment of course ^^