Belabored: Child Labor, Child Strikes, With Jack Hodgson
A fourteen-year-old boy links bed springs in a factory in Boston, Massachusetts in 1917. Photo by Lewis Hine/Library of Congress via Getty Images

Belabored: Child Labor, Child Strikes, with Jack Hodgson

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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.

Thank you for listening to our 263rd episode! If you like the show, you can support us on Patreon with a monthly contribution, at the level that best suits you.

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Belabored’s tenth season is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.



Micah Uetricht, The Movement That Made Brandon Johnson Mayor of ChicagoThe Nation

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 violenceGuardian

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

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

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


Sarah Jaffe is the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (Nation Books).

Michelle Chen is a con­tribut­ing writer at In These Times and The Nation, a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at Dis­sent and a co-pro­duc­er of the ​“Bela­bored” pod­cast. She stud­ies his­to­ry at the CUNY Grad­u­ate Cen­ter. She tweets at @meeshellchen.

Co-published with Dissent Magazine.

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