The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916

The Keating-Owen Child Labor act was the very first bill to focus on the issue of children being exploited for labor. It was sponsored by Edward Keating and Robert Owen in order to prevent manufactures and factories from employing and overworking underage children. It had many different goals and achieved some pretty spectacular results.

Goal of Keating-Owen Act

The goal of this bill was to protect children of families in poverty. These children where often sent to work for very low wages, inhumanely long hours, and abnormal hours. This act caused congress to create a board of people to oversee the use of child labor in the United States. It made sure that environments where safe and ethical and that the children where paid fairly. It also made any companies who violated these statues to be penalized.

Where it Started

The first proposal was made in 1906 by Senator Albert J. Beveridge. Through the work done by NCLC or National Child Labor Committee and Alexander McKelway, it was then signed to a law by Woodrow Wilson in 1916. It took effect on the 1st of September in 1917.

New Legal Requirements

As the bill took effect, it is noted that all factories and manufacturing companies that employed children who are under 16 and exceeds the regular hours of working be prohibited from having interstate commerce. The law can be noted as the end for child labor especially for children who are required too hard even at an early age. With this child labor law, many people believed that it will put an end to the increasing number of children who are forced to work even off the working hours just for factories to get enough supply.

A Change of Heart

Though the law was very promising, it did not last long. After 9 months of being law, the Supreme Court of the United States of America found that the law was unconstitutional. This was due to the Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918), where the Supreme Court found out that the law has overstepped the entire purpose of the power given to the government for regulating interstate commerce. The court has outlined the problems that the power of the congress has on regulating the production and the commerce in the state under Keating-Owen Child Labor Act.

Due to the fact that the congress overstepped their power for regulating commerce and production based on the opinion of the court, the law was then ruled to be unconstitutional and ended its effect on the child labor and interstate commerce, as well. Though the first child labor act was not used continuously, the congress still managed to make other laws that would address the awareness of protecting children from child labor and be fair with labor standards. In today’s world there are very strict child labor laws and laws to be followed which protect the rights of our country’s children.