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The Child Labor Amendment is a proposed and pending amendment to the United States Constitution offered by Republican Ohiomarker Congressman Israel Moore Foster during the 68th Congress in the form of House Joint Resolution No. 184.

Text of the Child Labor Amendment

Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age.


Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.


Congressional history

House Joint Resolution No. 184 was adopted by the United States House of Representatives on April 26, 1924, with a vote of 297 yeas, 69 nays, 2 present and 64 not voting. It was then adopted by the Senate on June 2, 1924, with a vote of 61 yeas, 23 nays and 12 not voting. And with that, the proposed constitutional amendment was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification pursuant to Article V of the Constitution.

Actions in the state legislatures

The Child Labor Amendment has been ratified by the legislatures of the following 28 states:

Arkansasmarker in 1924; Arizonamarker, Californiamarker and Wisconsinmarker all in 1925; Montanamarker in 1927; Coloradomarker in 1931; Illinoismarker, Iowamarker, Mainemarker, Michiganmarker, Minnesotamarker, New Hampshiremarker, New Jerseymarker, North Dakotamarker, Ohiomarker, Oklahomamarker, Oregonmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Washingtonmarker and West Virginiamarker all in 1933; Idahomarker, Indianamarker, Utahmarker and Wyomingmarker all in 1935; Kentuckymarker in 1936; and Kansasmarker, Nevadamarker and New Mexicomarker all in 1937.

In 1929, the Nebraskamarker Senate voted to ratify the Child Labor Amendment, but the Legislature's lower house did not (the Nebraska Legislature in those days was still bicameral); the Mississippimarker Senate voted to ratify the measure in 1934, but the state's House of Representatives did not; and in 1937, the New Yorkmarker Senate voted to ratify it, but the state's Assembly did not.

Although the act, on the part of state legislatures, of "rejecting" a proposed constitutional amendment has no legal recognition, such action does have political ramifications. The Child Labor Amendment was rejected—and not subsequently ratified—by lawmakers in North Carolinamarker in 1924; by those in Floridamarker, Georgiamarker, Massachusettsmarker, Missourimarker, South Carolinamarker, Tennesseemarker, Texasmarker and Vermontmarker all in 1925; by those in Virginiamarker in 1926; and by those in Marylandmarker in 1927. In the specific case of Louisianamarker, its legislators thrice rejected the Child Labor Amendment, first in 1924, again a decade later 1934, and a third time in 1936.

Today, with 50 states in the Union, the ratifications of 10 additional states would be required to incorporate the proposed Child Labor Amendment into the Constitution.

Judicial history

If ever ratified by the required number of United Statesmarker state legislatures, the Child Labor Amendment would repose in the Congress of the United States exclusive jurisdiction to legislate on the subject of child labor. The states would have to yield to federal law—which is normal procedure anyway. After several state legislatures initially balked at the proposal during the 1920s, a number of them re-examined their position during the 1930s and decided to ratify. Those delayed actions resulted in much controversy and spawned the 1939 decision of the United States Supreme Courtmarker in the landmark case of Coleman v. Miller (307 U.S. 433) in which it was determined that the Child Labor Amendment remains pending business before the state legislatures because the 68th Congress did not specify a deadline within which the state legislatures must act upon the Child Labor Amendment. The Coleman v. Miller ruling formed the basis of the unusual, belated ratification of the 27th Amendment which was proposed by Congress in 1789 and ratified more than two centuries later in 1992 by the legislatures of at least three-fourths of the 50 states.

See also



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