102 children worked hazardous jobs cleaning American slaughterhouses

Child labor is generally illegal, but in the U.S. companies can put kids to some outright nasty and dangerous work—cleaning slaughterhouses, for instance—without significant consequences. In that example, Packers Sanitation Services is to pay only a financial settlement limited by statute to about $15,000 per child. In a press release, it is clearly delighted at how little it must cough up.

"We are pleased to have finalized this settlement figure as part of our previously announced December resolution with the Department of Labor (DOL) that ends their inquiry. We have been crystal clear from the start: Our company has a zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18 and fully shares the DOL's objective of ensuring full compliance at all locations."

Given that it had more than 100 children cleaning carcass-splitting saws at abbatoirs, the idea that it had a "crystal clear" "zero tolerance policy" seems unlikely, to say the least. The Department of Labor's own statement says the company knew children were employed and that its staff tried of obstruct the investigation.

"Our investigation found Packers Sanitation Services' systems flagged some young workers as minors, but the company ignored the flags. When the Wage and Hour Division arrived with warrants, the adults — who had recruited, hired and supervised these children — tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices," said Michael Lazzeri, regional administrator for the division in Chicago.

I wonder if that maximum settlement per child is objectively less than the extra cost of hiring an adult.