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History Of Child Labor Laws In The U.S.

The photo above was taken from today’s MSNBC PhotoBlog. As you can see, the photo features a young boy in Kabul, Afghanistan waiting to sell popcorn from a rolling cart as evening settles in. I found the photograph to be poignant, and despite its relative darkness, visually stunning. The photograph also got me to thinking about the topic of child labor, a topic that has not yet been covered here at CRW. So, I have included below a brief outline of the history of U.S. child labor laws.

1832 New England unions condemn child labor
The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen resolve that “Children should not be allowed to labor in the factories from morning till night, without any time for healthy recreation and mental culture,” for it “endangers their . . . well-being and health”
1836 Early trade unions propose state minimum age laws
Union members at the National Trades’ Union Convention make the first formal, public proposal recommending that states establish minimum ages for factory work
1836 First state child labor law
Massachusetts requires children under 15 working in factories to attend school at least 3 months/year
1842 States begin limiting children’s work days
Massachusetts limits children’s work days to 10 hours; other states soon pass similar laws—but most of these laws are not consistently enforced
1876 Labor movement urges minimum age law
Working Men’s Party proposes banning the employment of children under the age of 14
1881 Newly formed AFL supports state minimum age laws
The first national convention of the American Federation of Labor passes a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment
1883 New York unions win state reform
Led by Samuel Gompers, the New York labor movement successfully sponsors legislation prohibiting cigar making in tenements, where thousands of young children work in the trade
1892 Democrats adopt union recommendations
Democratic Party adopts platform plank based on union recommendations to ban factory employment for children under 15
1904 National Child Labor Committee forms
Aggressive national campaign for federal child labor law reform begins
1916 New federal law sanctions state violators
First federal child labor law prohibits movement of goods across state lines if minimum age laws are violated (law in effect only until 1918, when it’s declared unconstitutional, then revised, passed, and declared unconstitutional again)
1924 First attempt to gain federal regulation fails
Congress passes a constitutional amendment giving the federal government authority to regulate child labor, but too few states ratify it and it never takes effect
1936 Federal purchasing law passes
Walsh-Healey Act states U.S. government will not purchase goods made by underage children
1937 Second attempt to gain federal regulation fails
Second attempt to ratify constitutional amendment giving federal government authority to regulate child labor falls just short of getting necessary votes
1937 New federal law sanctions growers
Sugar Act makes sugar beet growers ineligible for benefit payments if they violate state minimum age and hours of work standards
1938 Federal regulation of child labor achieved in Fair Labor Standards Act
For the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children are regulated by federal law

The outline above was obtained from The Child Labor Education Project. Below are some additional photos on the subject that readers may find interesting or useful.

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What Is The True Meaning Of Memorial Day?

In the United States today, Memorial Day has become a day where we celebrate the start of summer with backyard barbecues and family picnics.  But what are the origins of Memorial Day?  How is it different from Veterans’ Day?

Unlike Veterans’ Day which is a day set aside to honor those men and women who serve our country, Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day,” a day instituted after the Civil War to honor veterans killed in service.  According to the website findingDulcinea, the first Decoration Day was held on May 5, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War.  Maj. Gen. John A. Logan changed the date of the celebration to May 30. “It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country,” the Veterans Affairs Web site reports.

New York was the first state to officially recognize Decoration Day in .  Soon, other Union states followed, but the Confederate states did not immediately embrace the holiday, choosing instead to honor their fallen with a separate holiday.  Over time, however, all of the states began to hold some day of remembrance, and in 1882, Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day.  In 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a federal holiday and became part of the 3-day weekend we all love so dearly.

Many activities to honor fallen veterans are associated with Memorial Day.  Cities throughout the U.S. organize parades to commemorate the day, and it is also traditional to fly the American flag at half-mast to honor those who have died.  Services are also traditionally held in Europe to commemorate those who fell in the Normandy Invasion as well as the many who died in the fields of Flanders, Belgium during the trench warfare of World War I.

So, while it may seem a bit off-topic to discuss Memorial Day in a blog about civil rights, the fact remains that the true meaning and origins of this important day are right on point.  Without the sacrifice of these brave men and women, neither you nor I would have the freedom to do the things we like to do in the United States – like, in my case, sit at my desk, secure in my home, and blog about civil rights.  That may sound a bit preachy, but it’s worth remembering.

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to check out findingDulcinea as well as theHistoryOf.net.  You can also find out more information about Memorial Day at the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

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To Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: Try ‘Honesty’ For A Change; You Will Find That In The Dictionary Before You Get To ‘Hypocrite’

Our Nation faces a profound crisis, my friends.  We face a crisis of ethics and principles because, as best I can tell, we live in a country where many of our most outspoken leaders are bereft of either.

The poster child for this ethical crisis is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, pictured below.

I have watched and listened to this Queen of the Harpies for months now, and I am utterly convinced that she grits those Chiclet teeth of hers together to hide the forked tongue with which she spews her treasonous venom.  However, I don’t intend to write about her rabble-rousing statements here.  She is already well-known for such statements, which is what makes her the darling of those hat-wearing imbeciles, the Tea Baggers.  Instead, I intend to remark on a more common problem that this “lady” suffers in spades – she is a two-faced liar.  Moreover, liberals, moderates, and conservatives everywhere who have any interest in integrity in government should start calling her out for what she is.

While Ms. Bachmann spouted off against President Obama’s financial reforms, her District – the Sixth Congressional District – languished with the worst foreclosure rates in the entire State of Minnesota.  In 2008, the district had the highest number of foreclosures in Minnesota and the highest rate of foreclosures. When 2009 drew to a close, that sad trend continued, but did nothing to abate Bachmann’s arrogance or idiocy.  Moreover, according to new data from HousingLink and the Minnesota County Sheriffs’ Offices, the Sixth Congressional District continues to be disproportionately impacted by the foreclosure crisis despite its representative’s reticence to vote for foreclosure relief legislation. Why should she?  It’s not her house on the chopping block, is it?

Is that where her lies and hypocrisy ends?  Hell no it isn’t!  Ms. Bachmann has forged quite the national identity for herself by calling President Obama’s health care reforms “socialism.”  Consider this quote from the “good” Congresswoman when encouraging a march on Washington to oppose health care reform:

“Nothing is more effective at reaching a congressman than having a citizen come to Washington, D.C. – not asking for a handout, not asking for tax money, not asking to take some liberty away from somebody else, but just asking for freedom.”

I want to make sure you got that – being a good American, to Ms. Bachmann, means “not asking for a handout” and “not asking for tax money.”  Did you get that?

If that is what it means to be a good American, then why is it that Ms. Bachmann and her husband’s business – Bachmann and Associates, Inc. – take in tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money?  What is Bachmann & Associates, you ask?  Bachmann & Associates is a Christian mental health clinic run by Bachmann’s husband.  It opened in 2003, and since that time it has been taking money from Minnesota’s public funds (that means taxpayer money) under two different provisions of law.  Both provisions of law, one known as Rule 29 funds and the other as Rule 31 funds, are voluntary for health clinics, meaning that the Bachmann’s were not required to sign up under these rules to operate their clinic.  They chose to sign up for them!  Now who’s the good American, eh?

That must be the extent of her fraud on the public, isn’t it?  Not so fast.  In addition to the thousands of dollars the Bachmann have received in “socialized medicine” payments, her family is estimated to have received more than $250,000 in farm subsidies over the past decade.  What happened to that whole “not going to Washington looking for a handout” thing, Michele?

The bottom line is this – Michele Bachmann is a hypocrite and a liar.  Her advocacy of issues is selective – it is perfectly ok for her and her family to get rich off of government funds, but damn you if you want to get in on a little bit of assistance to pay for a doctor’s visit.  You are a “SOCIALIST” and any politician who agrees with you is a “SOCIALIST!”

Hey, Michele, while you’re looking up the word “honesty” in the dictionary, you might want to try looking up the word “socialist,” too.  You will find that word a wee bit before the word “succubus.”  For succubus, you only need to look in the mirror.

For further reading on Ms. Bachmann, check out this report from the Minnesota Independent.

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SCOTUS Rules No Life Without Parole For Juveniles Who Haven’t Killed

In a 5-4 decision, splitting along liberal-conservative lines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that juveniles cannot be incarcerated for life without parole if they were not convicted of homicide.

The case involved Terrance Graham, implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17, and now serving a life sentence in Florida.  Florida which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrote that “the Eight Amendment does not permit” the states to deny a juvenile “any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a non-homicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law.”

Approximately three dozen states allow for the incarceration of juveniles for life without parole based on non-homicide crimes.  Over 100 prison inmates in the United States are serving those terms in Florida and seven other states — California, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Carolina.

Justices Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito dissented from the Court’s ruling.

Court Upholds Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act:

In another criminal procedure ruling, the Court upheld the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2006.  The law permits states to set up civil commitment procedures for “sexually dangerous” prison inmates, allowing for the indefinite incarceration of such inmates long after they have served their sentences.

In a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Breyer, the Court wrote that the law is:

“[A] ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”

Under the federal law, in order to detain such inmates, the state must prove the following:

  1. The individual has previously “engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation”;
  2. He/She currently “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder”;
  3. The prisoner “as a result of” that mental illness, abnormality, or disorder is “sexually dangerous to others” in that “he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.”

“If the Government proves its claims by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ the court will order the prisoner’s continued commitment,” Breyer said.  “Clear and convincing evidence” is the highest standard of proof required in a civil proceeding, but is not as high a standard as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applicable in criminal cases.

Justice Thomas and Scalia dissented, writing that nothing in the Constitution gave Congress the power to enact such sweeping legislation.

You can read more about these decisions here and here.

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Lawyer – Wait, I Mean Dentist – Orly Taitz Files Lawsuit Against New Health Care Law

Care to know who has joined the “illustrious” group of lawyers filing lawsuits against the new health care bill signed into law by President Obama?  You guessed it, Claimed Lawyer – Apparent Dentist – Birther Queen – and  All-Around Weirdo Orly Taitz.  In a barely-reasoned, badly-drafted Complaint – in which she mis-spells the title of her own court document – Taitz alleges that the new health care law is a:

“VIOLATION OF COMMERCE CLAUSE AND OF PLAINTIFF’S RIGHTS TO GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT AS A DOCTOR OF DENTAL SURGERY UPON DEFENDANT’S IMMINENT SIGHNING OF THE HEALTH BILL”  (Error in original.)

Huh?

But, wait…it gets better. Dr. Orly waxes on, eloquently pleading:

“Health bill, as being prepared and reconciled, will create an enormous machine of governmental burocracy which will intrude into Plaintiff’s practice, will affect her doctor-patient relations, will undermine her Hippocratic oath, will force her to ration medical care and de-facto deny medical care to elderly, whom some committees of burocrats will deem to be too old to receive such care, meaning too old to live.” (Multiple and inexcusable errors in original.)

Orly Taitz concerned me enough when I only knew her to be a sham lawyer, completely incapable of sound legal reasoning, and apparently absent from law school the day they discussed the “actual cases and controversies” clause from the Constitution.  But she’s also a dentist!?!  I mean, I knew she put Dr. in front of her name, but I certainly did not think she seriously meant that she provided, gulp, medical care to actual people.  With sharp instruments and everything!?!

Apparently, Orly did not get a big enough cup of hot, steaming whoop-ass from her last foray into a courtroom.  As some of you may recall, Orly was sanctioned and severely criticized by a Federal judge last year for filing a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama.  In a 30-page opinion, the Judge criticized Orly for, among other things:

  1. Using “rhetoric” that is designed to inflame the “emotions” of her followers instead of real legal arguments; (Orly:  “What are legal arguments?”)
  2. Failing to properly file and serve the defendants in the case so as to give them notice of the case; (Orly:  “That rule didn’t apply to me, did it?”)
  3. An attempt by Taitz to dump two of her clients because she did not like working with their counsel; (Orly:  “I never said I was a people person.”)
  4. Asking supporters to contact the court in an attempt to influence the decision; and (Orly:  “Is that wrong?”)
  5. Possibly asking some witnesses to perjure themselves before the court.  (Orly:  “They were just little, white lies.”)

You can link to additional articles about Orly here and here.

And, yet, no article about Orly Taitz would be complete without at least one photo of the Dr. herself – now, ask yourself, would you want her standing up for you in court?  Or, coming at you with a dentist’s drill and a pair of pliers?  If you answer yes to either of these questions, you need more than a dentist.

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Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Discharge Of Student Loan Debt

In a surprising decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in United Student Aids Funds v. Espinosa, that a student may discharge the interest on their student loan debt, even though the student did not allege “undue hardship” if required to repay the loans.  When the student, Francisco Espinosa, sought bankruptcy protection and submitted his plan to the bankruptcy court judge, the student loan creditor, United Student Aids Funds, did not object.  Instead, the creditor later sought to void the plan under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4).

Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Thomas stated, “Rule 60(b)(4) does not provide a license for litigants to sleep on their rights…Where, as here, a party is notified of a plan’s contents and fails to object to confirmation of the plan before the time for appeal expires, that party has been afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate, and the party’s failure to avail itself of that opportunity will not justify Rule 60(b)(4) relief.”

As a general rule, student loans are considered non-dischargeable in the absence of proof of undue hardship to the debtor if required to repay the loans.  Will this ruling by the Supreme Court breathe new life into the question of student loan dischargeability?  That remains to be seen.  It certainly gives more than a faint glimmer of hope in an area of bankruptcy law that many students and graduates have argued should be subject to at least partial dischargeability.

For further information on the procedural history of this important new case, you may check out these links to the ABA here and here.  You may also refer to the SCOTUS blog here.  I have also placed a PDF of the Espinosa decision in the Box for downloading.

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UPDATE! High School Takes Its Cue From George Orwell’s “1984”

In the Philadelphia suburb, Lower Merion Township, students are issued laptops by the school district.  Unfortunately, as some Lower Merion high school students recently discovered, their laptops came with an unwanted “spycam” feature courtesy of their school district.

According to a class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Lower Merion School District issued laptops to its high school students with webcams installed.  Unbeknownst to the students, however, the high school administration retained the ability to remotely activate the webcam at any time to, essentially, spy on the students and anyone else that might be within view of the webcam.  The plaintiffs and their families alleged that they first became aware of the high school’s ability to activate the webcams and spy on them when one student was brought before the school’s vice principal for “engag[ing] in improper behavior in his home, citing a webcam photo as evidence.

As an article in Boingboing.com noted:

“Schools are in an absolute panic about kids divulging too much online, worried about pedos and marketers and embarrassing photos that will haunt you when you run for office or apply for a job in 10 years.”

It is unclear what “improper behavior” the student committed.  However, schools in Pennsylvania, in particular, appear highly concerned about student activity in cyberspace.  Recently, I wrote about the controversial practice of “sexting” in “Is Sexting Child Porn Or Protected Speech?”  That article discussed the case of Miller v. Skumanick, which involved another Pennsylvania school’s attempt to combat “sexting.”  The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a decision soon in that case.  For now, the District Court’s opinion is in the Box for you to download.

The issue of “sexting” is not limited to Pennsylvania.  Recently, a Florida youth was arrested on charges of child pornography for forwarding sexually explicit images a girl had given him to his friends.  You can link to an article discussing the Florida case here.

The Lower Merion case is not the first case attempting to punish a student for “off campus” Internet behavior.  In fact, the 3rd Circuit has created what one lawyer called a “state of chaos” by issuing two seemingly-conflicting opinions, each involving fake profiles set up by students on Myspace.  You can read about these cases in a Findlaw article here.

However, the Lower Merion case may well be the first case where a school covertly spied on its own students by use of a webcam.  As the case develops, I will report more here.  In the meantime, you can download a copy of the complaint filed against the Lower Merion School District, which I saved under “SchoolSpycamCase” in the Box.

Update:  School Admits To Covertly Spying On Its Students Some 42 Times

If you were like me, as you were reading my previous post on the controversy engulfing Lower Merion Township as a result of its high school’s spycam-campaign, you might have found yourself asking, “Yes, but there are always two sides to every story…What’s the school’s response?”  As an article from today’s Engadget.com revealed, the school’s official response is that they admit that they covertly spied on their high school students some 42 times, using the webcams installed on laptops issued by the school.  In their defense, the school noted that they only captured images, not sound…as though that somehow makes it all better??  In civil rights litigation circles, we have a saying for the situation the Lower Merion High School is in…”You’re screwed!”

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