Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 people, many of them teen girls, were burned or jumped to their deaths because of a fire made fatal by inadequate workplace protections. The doors to the factory were locked.
Also today, more than one hundred people commemorated that fire by protesting Governor LePage's decision to remove a mural from the Department of Labor that depicts Maine's labor history - including our history of child labor and the groundbreaking laws forged by Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, who witnessed the fire first hand.
And finally today, lawmakers in the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee split 6-6 on whether to roll back child labor protections.
Really? A roll-back on child labor laws?
What would Frances Perkins say?
The latest amendment to L.D. 516 would permit employers to schedule teens to work up to 24 hours during the school week, up to six hours on a school day and keep them working until 11 o'clock on a school night.
Maine's child labor laws were first enacted in 1847, and strengthened repeatedly over the years. The reason? Educators complained that students forced to work long hours outside of school were falling asleep in class and failing to succeed in school.
The current law limiting working hours for 16 and 17 year-olds was forged through bipartisan agreement in the legislature about the need to balance employer interests with the health and welfare of Maine children. Indeed, according to the Legislative Record, the original bill was referred to as the "Put Learning First, Put Working Second" bill.
Mainers have rightly raised their voices over the past two days over the historic mural's removal.
Now it's time we raise our voices and urge our legislators to uphold the workplace protections that are part of this history.
Click here to take action right now.
Maine Women's Lobby