Back in November when Newt Gingrich was speaking to Harvard’s Kennedy School, he proposed an interesting and somewhat controversial jobs plan for our country. In his talk he claimed that the child work laws that are currently in place “entrap” poor children into deeper poverty. He proposed that perhaps firing unionized janitors and replacing them with children would work to help the cause. This past Wednesday, months after his initial proposition, during Gingrich’s talk at Georgetown University a former child janitor tells Gingrich that his jobs plan offends him.
Back in November, Gingrich proposed his plan on the basis that poor children are essentially lazy. They lack the work ethic needed in order to succeed because they are surrounded by adults and family members that do not work. They do not pick up on the healthy habits of working adults and in turn become lazy themselves. He was quoted saying, “really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it is illegal.”
Making absolute claims such as this can run politicians into a lot of trouble. However, Gingrich continued on his trail and spoke to a South Carolina crowd in December where he suggested that children should be able to get a job at the age of five in order to gain an “an education in life” through work. In fact, Donald Trump supported Gingrich’s plan by agreeing to hire ten children living in poverty as apprentices. Trump was quoted saying, “We’re going to be picking ten young, wonderful children, and we’re going to make them apprenti [sic]. It was Newt’s idea, and I thought it was a great idea.”
Though it seems that many Republicans support Gingrich’s idea, a man that once worked as a child janitor himself addressed Gingrich with his concerns on Wednesday during his talk at Georgetown. Hector Cendejas spoke out and told Gingrich that he disagreed with his plan and that it actually offended him. He was quoted saying, “Back in high school, I was a janitor in my own high school, which was a private school. For me, it was embarrassing to be a janitor at my own high school because I was with the rich kids. I was poor. My mom was working super hard. I did not feel empowered by serving my classmates. Why not invest on these kids to work for law firms, hospitals and get paid to develop better skills?” Rather than having young kids start work as a janitor, it is a good suggestion to have them placed in jobs that show promise and opportunity, as Candejas suggested.
In response, Gingrich simply asked him if his job was financially beneficial to him, to which Cendejas replied that he needed to help his mom- implying that any kind of job would have proved beneficial. “Thank God I had Georgetown to save my butt, you know?” said Cendejas. “…all my friends, they’re pregnant, they’re in gangs, in jail, and we did the same job, working as janitors. So for me, your remark was a little offensive towards me.” Gingrich apologized if he was offensive, but went on to say that his own daughters worked as janitors at their church and enjoyed the fact that they were making their own money. He said they thought that their work had dignity and, in fact, helped them for the better.
“But they come from a wealthy family,” Cendejas pointed out.
“That’s not the point,” the candidate shrugged. “You and I just disagree.” It seemed as though Gingrich was the one that missed the point, though. A jobs plan that puts young children to work is not a plan that will likely gain a lot of support from the country. A jobs plan such as this, if passed, could open the floodgates for hundreds of child labor abuse. It is true that young children can benefit greatly from working and building a strong work ethic in the process, but how many of these children will actually get jobs that will prove beneficial? How do they find these jobs? How many of these kids would actually choose to work a job at a young age and how many would be forced to work?
It is true that America needs a solid jobs plan, but is this the way? What do you think of Gingrich’s plan? Do you see the benefits as well as the disadvantages?